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Other Toxic Chemicals

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The chemicals used to make everyday products, from furniture to clothing to cleaning supplies, contaminate our air, water, and homes. In the past century, tens of thousands of chemicals have been introduced into our products and communities. Some of those chemicals raise the risk of chronic disease, including cancers. Low-income communities and communities of color bear the greatest pollution burden; in these communities, exposures are higher and health impacts due to chemical exposure are more prevalent.

The science is clear: we can prevent disease by reducing our exposure to harmful chemicals. Advocates, businesses, and policymakers have a responsibility to protect public health by replacing harmful chemicals with safer alternatives and ensuring that our air, water, food, and products are safe.


Bisphenols are widely-used chemicals found in everything from food and beverage can linings to thermal paper and used to make polycarbonate plastic as well as epoxy resins. While bisphenol A (BPA) is the most well-known member of this chemical class, similar compounds such as bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF) are chemical cousins that are also of concern. Unfortunately, when states and companies restricted the use of BPA, many manufacturers turned to these similar and also toxic compounds. Learn more here.


Cadmium is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in the environment and is also produced by various industrial processes. It is widely used in batteries, pigments, coatings, and plastics, and can also be found in cigarette smoke. Cadmium is toxic and can accumulate in the body over time, causing damage to the kidneys, lungs, and bones. Long-term exposure to high levels of cadmium can also increase the risk of cancer.

Flame Retardants

From our TVs to our automobiles, furniture and building materials, dangerous cancer-causing and brain-harming toxic flame retardants are used in the name of fire safety when safer alternatives are available. Learn more here.


Formaldehyde is widely used in many consumer products, including building materials, pressed wood, cosmetics, shoe-care products, and textiles. It is also used as a disinfectant and as a preservative, including in mortuaries and medical labs. It has been identified as a cause of leukemia and nose and throat cancer, and linked to asthma and skin irritations. Learn more here.

Heavy Metals

Examples of heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and chromium. These metals occur naturally in the environment but can also be released into the environment through human activities such as mining, manufacturing, and transportation. Some heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, are toxic and can cause serious health problems, including neurological damage, kidney damage, and cancer. Learn more here. 


Lead is found naturally in the earth, but just because it’s a natural chemical element doesn’t mean it’s harmless. It is a heavy metal with a long history of industrial and personal use—and just as long of a history of harming human health. Learn more here. 


Mercury is a heavy, silvery metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is a naturally occurring element and can also be produced by various industrial processes. Mercury exposure can cause serious health problems, especially in developing fetuses and young children. Mercury can affect the nervous system, leading to developmental delays, impaired cognitive function, and other neurological problems. Learn more here. 


Ortho-phthalates, commonly referred to as phthalates, are a class of chemicals that are used to make plastics, primarily polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), flexible. The chemicals also serve various functions in cosmetics, personal care, and cleaning products. Phthalates are well-known for their ability to disrupt the hormonal system. Learn more here. 


Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a volatile organic compound mostly used to manufacture refrigerant chemicals in a closed system. It is also used as a solvent for degreasing, as a spot cleaner in dry cleaning, and in consumer products. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies TCE as carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure. Learn more here. 


Triclosan is a hormone disruptor found in thousands of products like toothpaste, cutting boards, yoga mats, hand soap, and cosmetics. It can also encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, and has been found in waterways and human breast milk. Learn more here.