Chemical Substances in Your Home

4 Chemicals in Your Home

The average home contains a lot of chemical products. These include paint, linseed oil, lacquer varnish, epoxies, denatured alcohol and bleach.

Many of these chemicals are toxic if ingested or inhaled. Others are harmful if touched or sprayed on skin and eyes. Some are even carcinogens. The Food and Drug Administration approves over 10,000 chemical additives to food — 99 percent of them greenlighted by food and chemical companies since 2000.

1. Benzo[a]pyrene

Benzo[a]pyrene (C20H12) is an aromatic hydrocarbon composed of a benzene ring fused to a pyrene ring. It is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, environmental pollutant and carcinogen. It is released into the air by incomplete combustion of fuels such as tobacco smoke, diesel engine exhaust and wood burning. It is then bioactivated to form highly reactive diol epoxides that can react with DNA. Benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide can cause DNA damage by forming covalent adducts with guanine bases. This forms abasic lesions that interfere with DNA replication and can result in mutations.

It is believed that this process induces lung cancer through its effects on cellular DNA and mitochondrial function. It also induces immunosuppression and reproductive toxicity. It is a known human carcinogen that acts as a chemical mutagen by producing chromosomal mutations in the K-RAS oncogene and TP53 tumour suppressor gene.

2. 1,3-Butadiene

1,3-Butadiene is a volatile diene used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber. It is also a useful intermediate in the Diels-Alder reaction. Inhalation exposures to butadiene result in irritation of the eyes and nose. Exposure to large amounts can cause unconsciousness and death.

Inhalation studies with B6C3F1 mice exposed to butadiene showed clear evidence of carcinogenicity at concentrations of 625 ppm or greater. Tumors included hemangiosarcoma of the heart and alevolar/bronchiolar adenomas or carcinomas. Mammary gland adenomas and granulosa cell tumors of the ovary were also seen in female mice.

Butadiene is mutagenic in somatic cells of mice and rats. It is also genotoxic in germ cells of mice. Butadiene is listed as a hazardous air pollutant. The Clean Air Act requires major sources to sharply reduce routine emissions of this pollutant.

3. Butyraldehyde

Butyraldehyde is a colorless liquid that is soluble in organic solvents. It is an intermediate in the production of synthetic resins, rubber accelerators, solvents, plasticizers, and high molecular weight polymers.

The production and use of butyraldehyde may release the compound into the environment via wastewater and gaseous emissions from various sources(SRC). The vapor phase degrades rapidly in an ambient atmosphere by reaction with photochemically produced hydroxyl radicals and by direct photolysis.

Butyraldehyde is irritant to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It may form explosive peroxides when exposed to air. Exposure to acetaldehyde and malonaldehyde has been shown to produce nasal tumors in rats and laryngeal tumors in hamsters. NIOSH considers butyraldehyde a potential occupational carcinogen. It has also been shown to be mutagenic in laboratory animal experiments.

4. Cadmium

Cadmium is used in the production of metal plating, nickel-cadmium batteries for mobile phones and cordless equipment, plastics, and paint pigments. It is also released in air during smelting, soldering and other high-temperature industrial processes.

The toxicity of cadmium is due to its accumulation in the body tissues. The kidneys and skeleton are most affected by cadmium. It can induce a range of pathologies in the renal tubular system from proteinuria to deterioration of renal function and renal cancer.

Exposure to cadmium can be mediated by breathing contaminated dust or eating contaminated food and drinking water. Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium can lead to lung damage and high blood pressure. It can also cause osteomalacia (weak painful bones) and emphysema. High levels of cadmium in the air can cause respiratory irritation and heart disease.

5. Catechol

Catechol is a brown-colored solid or aqueous solution with faint characteristic odor and is used in rubber, chemical, photographic, dye, fat and oil industries. It is also employed as a developer for fur dyes and as an antioxidant in metal plating and specialty inks. It was formerly used as an antiseptic.

Catechol reacts with a variety of biomolecules and generates a wide range of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS damage DNA, proteins and membranes leading to non-repairable lesions.

Treatment of groups of Fischer 344 rats with catechol (0 or 1.5% in diet) increased the incidence of forestomach papillomas induced by N-methyl-N’-nitrosomethyl-N-nitrosoguanidine but not glandular stomach adenocarcinomas (Yamaguchi et al, 1989). Catechol also inhibits the rate-limiting step of DNA synthesis and leads to chromatin condensation in cultured human T lymphocytes.

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