Keith Gascoigne



Domestic Toxins

A list of some of the irritating and harmful chemicals most of us have in our homes. It will never be complete and it will always be out of date.


Present in: glass and porcelain cleaner, some water-based wood dyes.

Causes: irritation to skin, eye, lung, nasal passages; headaches.

Produces: highly irritant fumes when in contact with chromed metal parts for instance, chromed plug-holes in sinks. Can be lethal mixed with bleach.


AKA: Benzole, Benzolene, Naptha, Mineral Naptha, Motor Benzol, Phene, Phenyl hydride, Pyrobenzol.

Present in: petrol, solvents, inks, adhesives, varnishes, paint finishes, treated charcoal for barbecues.

Causes: headaches, drowsiness, damage to nervous system, leukaemia, high exposure causes death.

Benzoic acid

Present in: food preservatives, processed food, flavourings.

Causes: skin, eye, lung irritation; affects people who are asthmatic and/or aspirin sensitive.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons

Present in: paint thinners, food cooked over 'easy-light' charcoal.

Causes: liver and kidney damage.

Chloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene

Present in: dry-cleaning fluids, some aerosol formulations, solvent-soaps, inks, adhesives, sealants, polishes, lubricants, metal cleaners, typing correction fluid, shoe polish.

Causes: skin, eye, throat, lung irritation, liver and kidney damage, cancer. High exposure causes fatigue, dizziness, lack of concentration, bad co-ordination, unconsciousness, death.

Coal tar dyes

Present in: food colouring, some toothpastes, mouthwashes, soap.

Causes: allergic reactions, triggers asthma, nausea, fatigue, linked to cancer.

Crystalline Silica

Present in: personal care products, toiletries, sachets to absorb moisture.

Causes: lung cancer.

DEA (diethanolamine)

Present in: cosmetics, some toiletries, bubble-bath, liquid soap, shampoo, body lotions.

Causes: cancerous when interacts with nitrites in water.


Highly carcinogenic - up to half a million times more than DDT.

Present in: bleached paper, tampons, some food containers.

Causes: cancer, skin damage, birth defects, brain damage, infertility, suppressed immune functions, hyperactivity in children and death in high doses.


Present in: hair sprays, some aerosols.

Causes: eye, nose, throat, lung irritation.


Present in: tap-water, most toothpastes.

Causes: possible carcinogen, said to cause skin problems, arthritis and other illnesses. Harmful in excess. See


AKA: methanol, methylene oxide, oxymethylene, methylaldehyde) (used to embalm bodies and pickle body parts.

Present in: medicines, cosmetics, cleaners, washing liquids, some soaps, fabric softeners, glues, adhesives, paper, plastics, plywood, chip-board, MDF boards, new furniture, fabrics (especially non-iron, permanent pressed, crease-free), carpets, upholstery.

Causes: extreme irritation of skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs.


Present in: furniture and floor polishes.

Causes: eye, nose, throat, lung irritation. Linked with cancer and birth defects.


Present in: black and brown hair dyes.

Causes: cancerous.


Present in: carpet cleaners and shampoos.

Causes: cancerous.

Phenol and Cresol

Present in: disinfectants, furniture and floor polish, 'air fresheners'.

Causes: skin, eye, nose, throat, lung irritation, possible kidney and liver damage.

Propylene Glycol

Present in: baby lotion, deodorants, shampoo.

Causes: skin rash and damage, deafness, kidney and liver problems.


AKA: vinyl-benzene, ethenylbenzene, cinnamene, phenylethylene.

Present in: rubber, plastics, insulation, fibreglass, food containers, carpets.

Causes: eye, nose, throat, lung irritation. Can lead to depression, muscle weakness, tiredness, nausea, concentration difficulties, liver damage.

Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulfate (SLES/SLS)

Present in: shampoos, shower gels, personal care products.

Causes: eye irritation and damage, linked to endocrine disruption.

Sodium hypochlorite

Present in: bleach, toilet cleaners, washing powders.

Causes: strong skin, eye nose, throat, lung irritation, death when mixed with ammonia (produces chlorine 'mustard' gas).

Talc (talcum powder)

Present in: personal and baby care products.

Causes: cancer, linked with ovarian cancer.

TEA (triethanolamine)

Present in: skin creams, lotions, shampoos.

Causes: cancerous when interacts with nitrites in water.


Some sensible precautions

Avoid using proprietary chemical cleaners inside the home. If in any doubt stop using them. By the time you realize you are being affected by noxious chemicals it is TOO LATE to do anything about it.

Avoid using petrochemical paints, thinners or brush cleaners. Natural paints and stains are much better but find out what is in them first.

If you must use toxic chemicals use them outside but avoid contaminating the soil or the air. Use simple soaps and more effort.

A nontoxic window glass cleaner

Vinegar, diluted with water, and rubbed on with clean paper (news-print contains formaldehyde) or a hard cloth.

Safer hair washing

Use simple, pure glycerin soap, then rinse your hair well. After a while your hair settles down and becomes softer.

Clothes washing and drying

Use simple soap for washing clothes and add a little disinfectant to kill bacteria that give even some washed clothes that 'old worn' smell. The older generation used vinegar to disinfect and kill bacteria in clothing but the smell takes a lot of washing out. Rinse clothes well. Hang clothes to dry outside whenever possible as sunlight kills germs and bleaches whites a little. Draping white sheets and clothes over shrubs in leaf (an old way) helps the oxygen to bleach them white a little - if you are impressed by whiteness. Always wash new clothes at least once before wearing them. They are often treated with skin and lung-irritating chemicals. Avoid washing powders which create an irritating dust and especially 'nonbiological' powders which are quite irritating to the skin. Use liquids.


The following is dust-related


Most fitted carpets are made using toxic chemicals and they harbour dust, mites and dirt. If you can't take them outside occasionally get rid of them. Vacuum-clean regularly with a dustless, micro-filtered vacuum cleaner.


As well as vacuum cleaning them regularly, hang them on the line outside and beat them occasionally. Let sun-light and air get to them.

Soft furnishing in general

Curtains, soft cushions, carpets, fabric covered furniture - a lot of stuff. These all collect dust, skin and dust mites and are a bad idea if anyone suffers from breathing problems and asthma. Reduce or remove soft furnishings altogether. They must be vacuum-cleaned at least once a week and if washed used a high temperature to kill the dust mites which feed of particles of skin we all shed all of the time.


Dust mites

It isn't the dust-mites that irritate dust and pollutant-sensitive people like myself and a growing number of people in our increasingly polluted world. It's their (the dust mites') excrement that is rich in keratin, from eating our skin particles, that causes the biggest irritation so vacuum-cleaning regularly does help (it helps me).


Cigarette smoke

Cigarette smoke is a major irritant. If you live in an apartment it is not always easy to stop this drifting in. All you can do, probably, is keep a flow of air going through your space. Of course, you could explain to your neighbours how unpleasant their smoke is making your life but if they are the sort of people who smoke they probably aren't the sort of people who will listen to your problems intelligently or sympathetically.