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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Chemicals & Contaminants

Learn about common hazardous chemicals and contaminants, their possible health effects, and how you can protect yourself.

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Lead

Acetone

Read about health effects of exposure to this common solvent. Reduce your risk.

Radon

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Concerned about health risks of BPA in plastics? Visit this page.

Acetone

Chlorine

Exposure to chlorine can cause negative health effects. Learn more. Protect yourself.

Methane

Pesticides

Exposure to pesticides can harm your health. Find out how to reduce your risk.

Chemicals & Contaminants

A

Acetone

Acetone is a clear, highly flammable liquid. It occurs naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, and forest fires. It is also found in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and landfill sites. More…

Most Common: Construction Hair and Nail Salons Factories Homes

Related to: Asthma and other Lung Diseases

Ammonia

Ammonia is a clear gas with a sharp odor. It is commonly sold in liquid form, which is corrosive and can destroy solid materials. It is also produced naturally by bacteria, decaying plants and animals, and animal waste. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Air Pollution Brownfield Construction Factories Fuel Industry Homes

Related to: Asthma and other Lung Diseases

Arsenic

Arsenic is a metallic element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and is widely distributed in air, water, and land. It has no odor or taste. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Brownfield Construction Factories Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Cancer Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease Learning and Developmental Disabilities Asthma and other Lung Diseases Reproductive Health

Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally in some rocks and soil. It comes in long fibers that are strong and heat-resistant. More…

Most Common: Brownfield Construction Factories Mines

Related to: Cancer Asthma and other Lung Diseases

B

Benzene

Benzene is a colorless liquid that is formed from both natural processes and human activities. It is produced naturally by volcanoes and forest fires. More…

Most Common: Trash Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Gas Station Homes

Related to: Cancer

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is a white solid that has been used since the 1960s to make plastics that are lightweight, clear, and hard. More…

Most Common: Factories Homes Microplastics

Related to: Cancer Birth Defects Learning and Developmental Disabilities

C

Cadmium

Cadmium is a silver-white metal that is found in the earth’s crust. It is extracted during the production of metals such as copper, lead, and zinc. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Factories Homes Food and Cooking

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a colorless gas. In its solid form, it is used as dry ice. It can be found in spring water and is released when volcanoes erupt, trees are cut down, or fossil fuels and products made from them such as oil, gasoline, and natural gas are burned. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Trash Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Factories

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, highly poisonous gas. Under pressure, it becomes a liquid. It is produced by burning gasoline, natural gas, charcoal, wood, and other fuels. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Homes

Related to: Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease

Chlorine

Chlorine is a naturally-occurring element with a strong, irritating odor that can be either a gas or liquid. Chlorine gas can be released if household bleach mixes with ammonia or other cleaning products. More…

Most Common: Chemical Spills and Accidents Factories

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a group of odorless manufactured chemicals. Because they damage the earth’s ozone layer, CFCs have been banned since 1996. More…

Most Common: Factories Homes

Related to: Cancer

Chromium

Chromium is a naturally-occurring element found in several forms in rocks, plants, soil, foods such as vegetables and nuts, and volcanic dust and gases. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Factories Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Cancer Learning and Developmental Disabilities Asthma and other Lung Diseases Reproductive Health

Crude Oil

Crude oil is a dark, oily liquid that is usually found naturally in underground reservoirs, pools, and tar sands. It is a fossil fuel that is extracted and used to make petroleum products. More…

Most Common: Fuel Industry

Related to: Cancer Asthma and other Lung Diseases

D

Diesel

Diesel fuel is a petroleum product used in some automobiles, generators, trucks, trains, boats, and farm vehicles. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Brownfield Construction Factories

Related to: Cancer

Dioxins

Dioxins are a group of chemicals that are highly toxic and persistent in the environment. Dioxin is also the common name for the chemical TCDD, the most toxic of this family. More…

Most Common: Trash Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Food and Cooking

Related to: Cancer Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

E

Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity of human hormones. They include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Food and Cooking Homes Trash Drinking Water

Related to: Reproductive Health Learning and Developmental Disabilities

Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is a colorless liquid that can be in the air in vapor form. It is used to make antifreeze and de-icing solutions for cars, airplanes, airport runways, and boats. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Factories Homes

Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide is a flammable gas that is primarily used to make other chemicals such as ethylene glycol. It is emitted from fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal, and from tobacco products. More…

Most Common: Factories Healthcare Services

Related to: Cancer Reproductive Health

F

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas or liquid. It is naturally produced in small, harmless amounts in the human body. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Healthcare Services Homes

Related to: Cancer Asthma and other Lung Diseases

G

Gasoline

Gasoline is a clear or pale brown, highly flammable liquid. It contains more than 150 other chemicals, including benzene, toluene, and sometimes lead. More…

Most Common: Boats and Ships Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Fuel Industry Gas Station

Related to: Cancer Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease

L

Lead

Lead is a metal that has been used in a variety of products, including paints, pipes, solder, ceramic glazes, batteries, cosmetics, gasoline, and devices to shield X-rays. More…

Most Common: Brownfield Factories Mines Homes Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease Learning and Developmental Disabilities

M

Mercury

Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally. It comes in several forms, including a shiny, silver-white liquid and a tin-white solid. If it is heated, it becomes a colorless gas. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Brownfield Factories Food and Cooking

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

Methane

Methane is a colorless and extremely flammable gas that can explode when mixed with air. It is the primary component of natural gas. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Power Plants Trash Air Pollution Factories Fuel Industry Gas Station Mines Wastewater Treatment/ Wastewater

Methanol

Methanol is a highly toxic liquid that may explode when exposed to flames. It occurs naturally in wood, volcanic gases, and decaying vegetation. It is emitted from gasoline and diesel engines, and from burning trash and plastics. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Brownfield Construction Factories Homes

N

Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are particles at sizes between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. More…

Most Common: Factories Homes

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is found beneath the earth’s surface. It has no odor, but gas companies add a warning smell to it so that can be easily detected if it is leaking. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Fuel Industry Mines Homes

Nitrogen Oxides

Nitrogen oxides are a group of seven gases and compounds composed of nitrogen and oxygen. The two most common and hazardous nitrogen oxides are nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Air Pollution Power Plants Vehicles and Engines Factories Fuel Industry Homes

O

Ozone

Ozone is a gas that occurs both in the earth’s upper atmosphere and at the earth’s ground level. In the upper atmosphere, ozone protects life on earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Factories Gas Station

P

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter, also called PM, is the term for tiny particles found in the air. It is formed in the atmosphere because of chemical reactions between pollutants. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Factories Homes

Related to: Cancer Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease Asthma and other Lung Diseases

Perchlorate

Perchlorate is a manufactured chemical and colorless salt that is most commonly used in rocket fuel. There are high levels of perchlorate naturally in some areas such as the southwestern United States. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Drinking Water Abandoned Military Sites

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities

Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC)

Perchloroethylene is a colorless liquid that is also called tetrachloroethylene, PERC, or PCE. It is primarily used for dry cleaning fabrics and degreasing metals. More…

Most Common: Brownfield Factories Dry Cleaning

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities Cancer Birth Defects Reproductive Health

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a manufactured chemical that is part of a larger group of chemicals called perfluoroalkyls. More…

Most Common: Brownfield Factories Homes Drinking Water

Related to: Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease Reproductive Health

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a group of toxic chemicals that don’t break down easily in the environment. They can be intentionally produced and used in agriculture, disease and pest control, manufacturing, or industry. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Trash Air Pollution Factories Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Cancer Birth Defects Reproductive Health

Pesticides

Pesticides are substances that prevent, destroy, repel, or reduce the severity of pests. Different classes of pesticides have different toxicities. Pesticides include: Algicides to control algae Antifouling agents to kill organisms attached to boats Fungicides to kill fungi Herbicides to kill weeds Insecticides to kill insects Rodenticides to control mice and other rodents. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Boats and Ships Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Homes Food and Cooking

Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl. More…

Most Common: Brownfield Healthcare Services Homes Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are manufactured, flame-retardant chemicals. More…

Most Common: Trash Air Pollution Brownfield Factories Homes Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly called PCBs, are manufactured mixtures of up to 209 chlorinated compounds. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Factories Food and Cooking Drinking Water

Related to: Cancer Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of more than 100 chemicals that are also called polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Air Pollution Construction Factories Mines Food and Cooking

Related to: Cancer

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a solid plastic made from vinyl chloride. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates, and can contain traces of bisphenol A (BPA). More…

Most Common: Factories Healthcare Services Homes Drinking Water

Related to: Cancer

Propane

Propane is a gas or liquid that is highly flammable. It is the main component of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). More…

Most Common: Agriculture Vehicles and Engines Fuel Industry Gas Station Food and Cooking

R

Radon

Radon is a radioactive, extremely toxic gas that is formed naturally from the decay of uranium or thorium in rocks and soil. It is more common in some areas of the country than others. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Mines Homes Uranium Tailings

Related to: Cancer

S

Solvents

Solvents are liquids or gases that can dissolve or extract other substances. They are used to dissolve grease, oil, and paint; to thin paint, glue, and pesticides; and to clean electronics, automotive parts, tools, and engines. More…

Most Common: Agriculture Construction Hair and Nail Salons Factories Dry Cleaning Healthcare Services Homes

Styrene

Styrene is a flammable liquid that is used to make polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex. It occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and beverages. More…

Most Common: Factories Fuel Industry Homes

Related to: Cancer Learning and Developmental Disabilities Reproductive Health

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a strong odor, similar to a just-struck match. It is formed when fuel containing sulfur, such as coal and oil, is burned. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Air Pollution Factories

T

Toluene

Toluene is a clear liquid that occurs naturally in crude oil. It is emitted from gasoline fumes, and is in vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. More…

Most Common: Vehicles and Engines Factories Fuel Industry Gas Station

Related to: Learning and Developmental Disabilities

U

Uranium

Uranium is a radioactive, naturally occurring element that is mined from the earth. It is commonly found in rocks, soil, and air. More…

Most Common: Power Plants Mines Uranium Tailings Drinking Water Abandoned Military Sites

V

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that easily become vapors or gases. More…

Most Common: Air Pollution Vehicles and Engines Dry Cleaning Fuel Industry Gas Station Homes

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