What are Toxic Chemicals?

What doesn’t kill you… can make you sick

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TheWorldCounts, 15 December, 2014

What doesn’t kill you… can make you sick

The Environmental Protection Agency descries a toxic substance as any chemical or mixture that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Most toxic chemicals are man-made or synthetic, but there are actually some that can be found in nature.

Synthetic or Man-made Toxic Chemicals:

The everyday products that we use in our homes contain toxic chemicals. We’ve become so used to them that we seldom concern ourselves with these toxic substances. Some examples are:

  • Laundry Detergents
  • Pesticides and Insecticides
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Drain Cleaners
  • Bleach
  • Battery Acid
  • Ammonia
  • Furniture Polish
  • House Paints
  • Cosmetics
  • Soaps, Deodorants and Toothpaste
  • Nail Polish

These products are useful to us, but can be toxic or harmful to our health if not used or disposed of properly. Their toxicity can leak into our environment and cause all kinds of health issues.

Read More: Chemicals Used In Daily Life

Natural Toxic Chemicals:

Nature also knows how to produce toxic chemicals. Some powerful toxic substances occur in nature! Plants, for example, are able to produce chemicals as a means of self-protection. Animals also produce toxic substances for protection and as a means of capturing prey. There are many natural elements and minerals that are actually poisonous to us humans. Some examples are:

  • Snake Venom
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Petroleum
  • Chlorine Gas
  • Ricin from Castor Beans
  • Muscarine, produced by mushrooms
  • Aflatoxins, a toxin produced by a fungus that contaminates grains, peanuts and corn
  • Ciguatoxin, a toxin found in fish
  • Tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by bacteria that cause Tetanus

These are just a few examples of the powerful toxic chemicals found in nature.

Read More: Hazardous Waste Facts

How Are Toxic Chemicals Dangerous To Your Health

Toxic chemicals can become harmful to our health when we directly inhale them or they come in contact with our skin. Indirectly, they can make us sick through ingestion when our water and food supply becomes contaminated.

Some substances are more toxic and potent than others. There are varying levels of toxicity. One substance may cause vomiting. Another substance may have no visible effect but eventually gives you cancer. This depends on the substance, your level of exposure and its toxicity.

There are 2 types of exposure – chronic and acute.

Chronic Exposure is when you are exposed to a certain toxic chemical regularly for a period of time. The chemicals are absorbed into your system slowly and the effects only show after a period of time.

Acute Exposure is when you get a massive dose in one instance and the toxic chemical is absorbed by your body rapidly. The effect is immediate.

Read More: Household Hazardous Waste Statistics

Toxic chemicals can also have hazardous effects since they are flammable, corrosive and combustible.

The common health effects of exposure to a toxic chemical are as follows:

  • Respiratory diseases such as asthma and other lung diseases
  • Nervous System Disorders
  • Headaches and Dizziness
  • Skin and Eye Irritation
  • Vomiting and Stomach Pain
  • Allergic Skin Reactions
  • Death

To protect yourself and your loved ones, you need to be aware of what these toxic chemicals are and how they should be handled. But more than being informed, we need to minimize our exposure to these substances. Since toxic chemicals invade our present industrial world, it may be a challenge to totally eliminate them from our lives – especially if you live in the city. However, there are natural products that we can use to at least remove toxic chemicals in our homes.

Know more about toxic chemicals and how they affect our health and our environment. Browse The World Counts Stories.

References

  1. About Education: Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics
  2. Chemicals Are Your Friends: The Most Toxic Chemicals Are Natural
  3. CCOHS: What Are Toxic Materials
  4. EHS: Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals

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