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8 Toxic Household Products Hurting You & The Earth

5 min read

We can all make better choices to limit the damage we do to our planet. For instance, planning eco-friendly home renovations or going green for the holidays. But information is critical. It’s easy to recognize that littering or leaving a broken sprinkler head to pour out a pool’s worth of water are some things that are bad for the environment. But what about the ordinary items we use daily without even giving them a second thought? Some things we routinely use are actually toxic household products that cause significant damage to our world. Identifying these harmful products and choosing safe alternatives can make a substantial difference in your environmental impact. So, let’s look at eight ordinary products that are far more damaging than you may realize.

Tea Bags

Tea lovers have congratulated themselves for years that their beloved brew doesn’t hurt songbirds, unlike coffee farming. But it turns out that some tea bags are a toxic household product that can do great damage. Most tea bags are made from paper. But paper tea bags typically use a metal staple, glue, or plastic to seal the bag and prevent the tea leaves from escaping.

The staple, glue, and plastic enter the environment and cannot biodegrade. Teabags that contain polypropylene (a non-biodegradable plastic) are common. They release billions of microplastic particles with every cup you brew.

Certain tea bags are a harmful product to the environment. Using a tea strainer or tea pot with loose-leaf tea lets you enjoy your relaxing cup without contributing to pollution.


Regular use of sunscreen is critical for people to avoid skin cancer and the damaging effects of the sun. But most sunscreens include octinoxate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. These chemicals get washed into oceans and lakes when we take a cooling dip. These chemicals have a devastating impact on marine life and coral reefs. Approximately 14,000 tons of sunscreen is washed into coral reefs annually.

Most sunscreens are damaging products that are bad for the environment. However, skin-loving, plant-based sunscreens avoid these chemicals and cause no injury to the planet.

Disposable Chopsticks

Many choose Chinese food as a delicious part of a healthy diet. While you might think disposable wooden chopsticks are better for the environment than plastic utensils, you’ll be surprised at how damaging they are. Millions of trees are cut down globally to be turned into chopsticks that are discarded after a single use. While cutting down all those trees may be a bad thing for the environment, at least chopsticks are biodegradable, right? Wrong. Chopsticks are chemically treated with sulfur, paraffin, and hydrogen dioxide to bleach them and make them mold resistant. These chemicals make chopsticks non-biodegradable, filling up landfills.

There’s no need to give up your mapo tofu and fried rice! Just get yourself a good pair of reusable chopsticks or opt to use your own silverware at home.

Makeup Wipes (and Baby Wipes)

As convenient as wet wipes are for removing your makeup or wiping your baby during changing, these wipes are toxic household products for the environment. While all are damaging to the environment, flushable wipes do the most damage. The soft wipes are made with microplastic fibers that do not biodegrade. We send 7.5 billion pounds of wipes to landfills and oceans every year. Over 140 species of marine life, including those we eat, have been found to contain dangerously high levels of microplastic.

A damp washcloth is a good alternative option to flushable wipes. Installing a bidet to your toilet might be even better and more cost effective. But if you must use wet wipes, choose biodegradable alternatives, and always discard them in the trash rather than flushing them.

Plastic Straws

Are you frustrated that your favorite beverage no longer comes with a plastic straw? Before you send out an angry tweet, think about this: In the United States, we use 500 million straws every day. These plastic straws do not break down in the environment but contaminate our soils and enter our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Millions of birds, turtles, fish, and other wildlife die from plastic consumption every year.

There are many alternatives to this harmful product available. Consider reusable straws to keep in the car. Glass straws are smooth, tasteless, and run through the dishwasher.


Oral hygiene is essential to our health care. But toothpaste is a toxic household product that damages the environment. Every year, 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are discarded worldwide. The plastic tube cannot break down and often finds its way into the oceans. But more than just better packaging is needed. Over half of all toothpaste varieties use microplastics as ingredients. And these go directly into our water supply.

You can find environmentally-friendly toothpaste options offering ingredients and packaging that are better for the planet. And don’t overlook good old baking soda for polishing your pearly whites.


Of course, we all know cigarettes are damaging to your health. But the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 4.5 trillion cigarettes pollute our soils, beaches, parks, rivers, and oceans every year. And cigarette filters, which contain microplastics, are the second most significant source of plastic pollution worldwide. This doesn’t begin to account for the disastrous farming techniques that tear down trees and replace food crops in poor and hungry nations.

Trying to quit smoking is no easy task, but knowing how much cigarettes can harm our planet may give you another motivation. To help ease the transition, consider alternative options such as heated tobacco products, vapes, oral smokeless products, and of course nicotine patches.

Hand Sanitizer Gels

We’re all more concerned than ever about hygiene and often use hand gels. But most antibacterial hand gel is loaded with triclocarban and triclosan. These chemicals break down incredibly slowly. They contaminate our waterways and are readily absorbed through the skin. People worldwide have triclosan in their blood, urine, and breast milk. Liquid soap, too, often contains triclosan. Not only are these toxic household products bad for the environment, but triclosan has been shown to damage the liver and muscle tissues and impair thyroid function.

There are environmentally friendly hand sanitizers, and DIY is a simple solution. Make your own hand sanitizer with two parts isopropyl alcohol to one part aloe vera gel.

Were you aware that so many toxic household products were lurking in your home? Protect your health and the environment by opting for more eco-friendly products. And protect your home by reviewing your homeowners insurance with a helpful Wawanesa agent.

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