Unexpected Sources of Toxins in Your Home

You likely keep your home as clean as you like, picking up clutter and cleaning the truly dirty areas, like the kitchen and bathrooms, on a regular basis. However, no matter how attentively you tidy up and wipe down your home, it could still be a toxic environment if you have the following common items in your home:


Brand-new carpet is no small investment, and it can do wonders to make one’s home feel clean, fresh and cozy. Unfortunately, brand-new carpet is also one of the most significant sources of toxins in the home. Often called “new car smell,” the odor that accompanies brand new carpet is actually volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are gases that can irritate the skin, eyes and throat and cause damage to the respiratory and nervous systems. Worse, long-term exposure to VOCs can have exceedingly serious health effects, like certain types of cancer. VOCs are used in the adhesive that secures carpet fibers to its backing, so it isn’t possible for homeowners to wash them away.; though VOC off-gassing can diminish over time, carpet VOCs might never disappear entirely.

Ripping out your carpet and replacing it with a different type of flooring can help, but you need to be careful of the type of flooring you choose. Laminate and vinyl flooring can be just as bad at emitting VOCs as carpet. Tile and natural wood floors are your best options for keeping indoor toxin levels low.


Indoor paint color trends change every year, and many homeowners repaint regularly to keep their interiors feeling fresh. Unfortunately, doing so is certainly introducing excess toxins into the indoor air, which can make a home feel unclean and unhealthful, even if it looks on trend.

Like carpets, paint contains high quantities of VOCs, which in this case act as solvents to keep the colored pigments mixed with the other ingredients. VOCs are the reason pregnant people are advised to avoid painting the nursery; some VOCs can affect the reproductive system, resulting in miscarriage, early labor, birth defects and other issues.

Greater awareness of VOCs has led some paint companies to create low- and no-VOC products, but you should be careful to investigate exactly what that means. It might be better to use more natural paints and pigments, like milk paint and chalk paint, which have never contained VOCs, or wallpaper, as long as you use a VOC-free adhesive.

Furniture and Mattresses

The most dominant items in your interior décor could be major sources of indoor toxins. Typically, furniture undergoes extensive manufacturing processes, which oven subject it to all sorts of chemicals that can off-gas VOCs into the home. Wood furniture, for example, can contain pesticides, adhesives, stains and sealants that emit VOCs. Couches, cushioned chairs and mattresses can contain foams and synthetic fabrics that are similarly toxic, and they also tend to be sprayed down with VOC-producing fire retardants.

The solution here is the same as before: Get rid of furniture that could be toxifying your home and replace it with pieces that are known to avoid VOCs. You can find non-toxic mattresses that utilize natural materials to provide comfort, but doing the same with other pieces of furniture might be more difficult. You might see if your mattress manufacturer offers furniture options as well, which is the case with larger natural and sustainable brands.

Candles and Air Fresheners

You don’t want your home to smell stale or stinky, so you probably light scented candles to generate more pleasing aromas. Though there is little evidence that burning wax is dangerous to human health, the scents used in these products often involve VOCs, particularly formaldehyde and benzene, which can irritate the skin and respiratory system. For this reason, you should avoid plug-in air fresheners as well. An essential oil diffuser is your best choice for healthfully scenting your home, but you should be careful to use essential oils properly to avoid negative effects from this source.


When you cook a meal from home, you usually want it to be a combination of delicious and nutritious — but if you are using non-stick pots and pans, you could be introducing toxins into your food. The chemical that prevents adhesion to pots and pans — called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — wears off into food over time. Studies show that it causes damage to the liver, thyroid and immune system.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of alternatives to non-stick cookware. You can use stainless steel, glass, ceramic or iron pots and pans to avoid PFOA in your kitchen.

You might think your home is clean, but there are some clear signs that your home is filled with toxic chemicals. If your eyes, skin and respiratory system are regularly irritated or if you suffer from chronic dizziness or headaches, you might look into replacing any of the above products around your home with safer, healthier alternatives.

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