The average person spends over 90 percent of the time indoors bombarded with toxic fumes from formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, xylene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), perflourinated compound (PFC) and many more. Here are some things to know about the chemicals surrounding you.
Formaldehyde comes from natural sources like forest fires and human activities such as smoking, burning wood and gasoline. It is present in nearly all buildings in furniture, cardboard, plastics, paint, varnish, dishwashing soap, fabric softener, and cosmetics like nail polish. It is a known nasal cavity carcinogen and long exposure can cause asthma, coughing and sneezing.
VOCs are in all petroleum products, flooring adhesives, paint, furniture, wall materials, electronic
equipment, cigarette smoke and cleaning products. They are the source of ground ozone formation and particulates in smog. Smog causes respiratory illnesses and risk of dying from respiratory disease is more than three times higher in metropolitan areas with the most concentrated ozone, or smog precursor.
Trichloroethylene is released from paints, dry cleaning, adhesives, pesticides, and ink in office machines. Short exposure causes nasal and throat irritation and central nervous system depression. Longer doses cause numbness, facial pain, poor eyesight, unconsciousness, irregular heartbeat and death.
Carbon monoxide is the gas produced by open fires, gas stoves, appliances and heaters, cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. Low exposure causes dizziness and headaches; higher exposure prevents oxygen from reaching body cells and can lead to death.
Benzene, Toluene, and Xylene are in the vapor of gasoline, oils, paints, glues, ink, plastics and rubber. They are used as solvents and can be found in detergents, explosives, drugs, foams and dyes. They cause skin and eye irritations and are linked with leukemia.
CFCs are molecules of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine used to manufacture aerosol sprays, blowing agents for foams and packing materials, as solvents, and as refrigerants. Production and consumption of CFCs, some chlorinated solvents, and Halons used in fire extinguishers are regulated under the Montreal Protocol to Reduce Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, but emissions from existing banks of CFCs are not. There are still thousands of kilotons of CFCs in existing refrigerators, air conditioners, aerosol cans and other products, with a large black market of smuggling CFCs. China and Brazil have a large increasing production of CFCs. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which deplete stratospheric ozone to a much lesser extent
than CFCs, have become a CFC substitute. The Kyoto Protocol attempts to get HCFCs regulated because of their high global warming potential.
PFC’s are in non-stick pans, water-proof clothing, stain-proof carpet, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, fire-fighting foams, dry cleaner chemicals, paints, roof treatments, hardwood floor sealers, shampoo, dental floss, denture cleaners, and in the blood of 90 percent of residents in the United States. They have contaminated food and water supplies and are a known carcinogen. Avoid personal-care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words ‘fluoro’ or ‘perfluoro.’
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says “people living and working in buildings of manmade materials inhale over 300 contaminants every day.” Add them all together and they are major health hazards. Are manufacturers seeking alternatives to these products? Rather than focusing so much on health insurance for Americans, what can government agencies do to protect citizens from substances and practices that are destroying the environment, creating health issues and even deaths?