10 Highly Toxic Old Household Products

10 Highly Toxic Old Household Products

Lauren Zerbey
May 23, 2011

Although we often talk about the good ol' days when people used simple, natural ingredients to clean a window or degrease a pan, let's not forget that there were also very toxic chemicals sold as 'miracle' products, most of which have since been banned. Even though you won't find these products on the shelves of your local hardware store, they may still be lurking in your basement or on those hard-to-see shelves in the garage. Fortunately, the folks at This Old House are helping to educate new homeowners about what they might find in their old homes. Find out what makes the top 10 list after the jump!

Some of these names will set off an automatic mental warning sign, but others may be unknown to younger generations. If you find any of these products in your home, contact your local hazardous materials collection agency for guidelines on proper disposal.

1. Strychnine: Used as a rodenticide, strychnine is deadly if swallowed.

2. Lye: Lye was most commonly used as a drain cleaner. Although it is still legal, it is extremely dangerous and can burn skin on contact and wreak havoc on the digestive tract if inhaled.

3. Benzene: Used in older formulas of lubricants, benzene is a sweet-smelling, odorless petrochemical that was linked to several cases of leukemia in the 1970's. A new can of WD-40 no longer contains this toxin, but any old and forgotten cans should be disposed of.

4. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS): PFOS was used in older formulations of fabric protectors (like Scotchgard), but was phased out in 2000 due to numerous potential health risks.

5. Lead: The sale of lead paint was banned in 1978 but there's a chance you could have some well-sealed cans tucked away in a dark corner. Of course, the bigger concern is the lead paint that's likely on pre-1978 walls. Check out the EPA's guide to dealing with lead paint.

6. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT): The subject of Rachel Carson's 1962 book, Silent Spring, DDT-based pesticides are a suspected carcinogen and have since been banned.

7. Diazinon: Used as a pesticide, diazinon was popular in the 70's and 80's for home gardens but was outlawed in 2004 for residential use.

8. Chlorpyrifo: Sold under the brand name Dursban, the loose form of this insecticide was pulled from the residential market in 2000 after it was linked to asthma and reproductive issues.

9. Creosote: Before pressure-treated wood, coal-tar creosote was used as a wood preservative but has since been labeled as a carcinogen. Even though we all love creative reuse, creosote was also used to coat old railroad ties so make sure your garden beds aren't constructed with this type of salvaged lumber.

10. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP): Now banned in many states, TSP was sold as an all-purpose cleaner but has since been linked to the depletion of oxygen levels in water and adverse health effects in humans.

Check out This Old House for more info.

(Image: This Old House)

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