42 Common Toxic Chemicals and Their Effects



including chronic and acute effects  (lab animal effects in brackets)


rugs, rug underpaddings, rubber tires, rubber consumer products, nylon, gasoline, auto exhaust, groundwater

leukemia, lymph cancer, blood cell cancer; tumors of breast, bronchial tubes, stomach, large

ntestine, liver, heart, thyroid (in mice: testicular tumors, leukemia)       (references 1-5)



body metabolism of alcohol; woodstoves, incinerators, smog, diesel exhaust, byproduct of Candida Albicans

fungal infections

DNA and chromosome damage; binds to liver and other cells causing autoimmune responses; upper

respiratory irritation, metabolic disruption, lung damage  (6-10)




neurologic damage, lung damage; enhances carbon tetrachloride liver damage  (11)


Alkylphenol resin

carbonless copy paper (“NCR” forms)

immune responses including itching/burning skin, rash, flushing, wheezing, cough; nausea; hormone

(prostaglandin) irregularities  (12, 13)


Benzenes (benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, naphthalene, others)

gasoline (auto exhaust & interiors, gas stations) diesel exhaust, building materials, plastics, polypropylene food containers,

cooked foods, printers, printed & copied paper, copy machines, incinerators, tobacco smoke, woodsmoke, marihuana smoke

bronchial, colon, and liver damage; leukemia; DNA damage; tumors including brain, liver, stomach,

lung; cardiac abnormalities, eye irritation, drowsiness, unconsciousness, uncoordination, heart attack

(in mice: birth defects, tumors) (1, 14-21)


BHT (butylated hydroxy-toluene)

migration from polyethylene food packaging, additive in foods (cereals, fats, meats, potatoes, others)

allergic reactions, possible cancer possible kidney damage  (animals: behavioural changes in



Carbon disulfide 

solvents, dry-cleaning, painting, spray  painting, glue work, varnishes

peripheral nerve damage, emotional instability, insomnia, lessening of libido (23, 24)


Carbon monoxide 

woodsmoke, tobacco smoke, auto and diesel exhaust

lung damage & irritation; carboxy-hemoglobin neutralizes blood oxygen transport (9)


Chlorinated water 

drinking water, shower vapour

immune depression (anti-tumor macrophages)


Chlorobenzene pesticides ( DDT, lindane, heptachlor, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, chlordane, mirex; others) 

food chain: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, human fat, mother’s milk; body fat, contaminated soils, groundwater brain

transmitter changes including

neurological ‘kindling’; breast cancer (in test bacteria: genetic mutations; in mice:

developmental learning deficits). Many are partially or completely untested (25-30)


Chloroform, carbon tetrachloride

solvents, incinerators, groundwater

liver- lung- & enzyme damage, cancers, kidney damage, cardiac abnormalities, heart attack (9, 11, 31,32)



food residues; widely used home and  agricultural pesticide, herbicide; active metabolite found in urine of 5.8% of U.S population

peripheral nerve damage, autoimmune disease, antibiotic allergy, memory loss, multiple chemical sensitivity, headaches, nausea, muscle cramps; effects are accelerated by other organophosphate pesticides  (33-37)


DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)

plasticizer, food wraps, vinyl blood bags: leaches into blood during storage

likely toxicity to lungs, liver, reproductive organs; possibly carcinogenic

(in animals: fetaltoxicity, lung abnormalities) (38)



contaminant in pesticides, herbicides,  technical products; now worldwide in air, water, meat, fish, human  body (especially

fat, liver); formed in incineration, electrical fires,woodsmoke, chemical reactions (possibly sewage sludge)

genetic damage, vitamin A dysregulation, liver toxicity, altered fat metabolism, chlorachne (skin cysts, scarring) thymus atrophy, impaired resistance to infection, breast cancer, nerve transmission damage (in

animals: fetal damage, immune damage, enzyme changes) (29, 39-45)



glue, alcoholic beverages

fetal damage, developmental delay, neurologic damage, cirrhosis of liver, zinc and selenium deficiencies; accelerates liver damage of chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and nitrosamines; interferes with body processing of styrene, xylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone,  trichloroethylene, benzene (6, 9, 31, 46)



solvents, printing, fabrics, mattresses, tobacco smoke, woodsmoke, foam insulation, particle board, car  and diesel exhaust, smog, groundwater

lung damage, impaired memory & dexterity, immediate and delayed hypersensitivity reactions; asthma, rhinitis; irritation of eyes and respiration (9, 47, 48)


Glycol ethers

antifreeze, paint, glue, adhesives,  sealants, caulking compounds, printed circuit boards, dyeing, inks

reproductive poisons, red blood cell damage, liver damage (in animals: fetal growth retardation, skeletal defects, testicular lesions) (49)



recently the most common general anesthetic; still in use as pediatric anesthetic

neurologic damage, liver damage (in rodents: developmental brain damage, reduced  learning and exploration in offspring, neurotransmitter changes) (11, 50, 51)



cleaners, fungicide

immune suppression, reduced T&B cell responses (in mice: impaired resistance to infection) (26, 52)



disinfectant, cleaning agent, soaps; used to wash hospital newborns from 1950’s to 1973

nausea, vomiting, convulsions, central and peripheral nerve damage, kidney damage; caused brain lesions and death when used to wash newborn premature babies (53-57)


food additives, photographic supplies, herbicides, pesticides, textiles, drugs,  plastics

autoimmune disease (lupus) (58)


MBT ( 2 -mercaptobenzothiazole)

blood vial stoppers, syringes; rubber nipples & pacifiers and other rubber products

damage to cell walls (cell death), allergy, rubber allergy (in animals: cancer) (59, 60)



glue, antifreeze, paint, cement, ink, windshield-wiper solvent; industrial uses

neurologic damage, blindness, lung and gastro-intestinal problems; dizziness, headache (61, 62)


Methyl ethyl ketone

solvents, photochemical smog

lung irritation and damage (9)


Methyl n butyl ketone

solvents, glue, varnish  

peripheral nerve damage, loss of motor control and reflexes, tremor, weight loss, muscle weakness

(in rodents: nerve cell degeneration) (24, 63-65)


Methylene chloride

pesticide sprays, gaseous lubricants,  aerosols, degreasers, waxes, paints,  paint-removers, varnishes

heart muscle damage, heartbeat changes; creates carbon monoxide (in animals: cancers) (61, 66)



building materials, vegetable oil extraction, gasoline, solvents, glue, roofing glue, varnish, vinyl production,  printing inks,

paints, dry-cleaning, spray painting

nerve cell damage, peripheral limb nerve damage; headache, cramps (23, 24, 67)


Nitrogen dioxide

incinerators, woodsmoke, smog, auto and diesel emissions; coal, oil & gas stoves

lung & respiratory damage, pulmonary fluid, fatty acid oxidation, bronchitis, childhood bronchitis; forms methemoglobin in blood (in mice: reduced resistance to infection, lung cell damage) (9, 68-71)



consumer rubbers (tires, baby nipples and pacifiers), soaps, cosmetics, tobacco smoke, food & food  containers and

packaging, marihuana smoke, pesticides, herbicides, industrial uses

DNA damage, cancers, cell death (in 30 animal species tested: cancers) (72-74)



incinerators, photochemical smog, diesel and auto exhaust, laser printers

lung immune system damag (B-cells), bronchial constriction, fatty acid oxidation, enzyme de-activation

(in mice and rabbits: lung lesions; in rats: fat metabolism damage, increased deaths) (9, 68, 69, 75-78)


PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls)

flame retardants (rugs, plastics, clothing, furnishings)

immune depression (T&B cells) (79-82)


PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

leakage from transformers; disposal of copy papers, paints/plasticizers  pesticide extenders, flame retardants, adhesives,

coolants, inks, hydraulic  fluids; human, fish, and animal fat; groundwater

genetic damage causing developmental & cognitive retardation, vitamin A dysregulation, chlorachne, immune depression, peripheral nerve damage, liver damage, respiratory problems, thyroid hormone dysregulation, decreases in reaction time, spatial learning, short-term memory; excess pigmentation 

(in animals: tumors, growth retardation,  behavioural changes, fetal death, increase  infection) (26, 27, 45, 52, 83-90)



wood preservative, packaging  preservative, insecticide, metabolite of  lindane & hexachlorobenzene; found in urine of 75% of U.S. population

possible genetic damage, suspected cancers; commonly contaminated with dioxins

(in animals: fetal death and mutations) (37, 61)



disinfectants, insecticides, fungicides (especially citrus fruit), food additives,  tobacco, marihuana, natural

food  occurrences, incinerators

nausea, vomiting, paralysis, coma (in cats, dogs: immune depression; in mice: trace amounts cause  immune dysfunction of yeast-killing macrophages) (61, 91, 92)


Solvents (mixed) (usually some combination of: benzene, toluene, xylene, styrene, acetone, methanol,

phenol, alkylphenol, dichloromethane)

paints, glues, degreasers, thinners,  extractors, dyes, industrial  manufacturing, laboratories

brain, skeletal, and other birth defects; brain cell degeneration; panic attacks, impaired memory, depression; visuospatial and perceptual impairment (23, 24, 93-95)



rubber, carpet backing, rug  underpaddings, photocopiers, copy  paper, laser printers, polystyrene food  containers (yogurt, others)

genetic mutations, chromosome aberrations; interference with liver enzymes, dermatitis; skin, nasal & respiratory irritations, fatigue, irritability; decreases in manual dexterity,  concentration, and reaction times

(in mice: tumors and increased death rate) (24, 96, 97)


Sulphur dioxide

car and diesel exhaust, incinerators, woodsmoke, smog

lung & respiratory damage, bronchiospasm, airway irritation  (in mice: increased infection) (9, 98)




fetal malformations; chelates bone calcium (99)


Toluene (methyl benzene)

 paint, solvents, carpets, plastic & rubber cements, white-out fluid, glue,roofing glue, photocopiers, print shops, dry-cleaning,

spray painting  varnishes, building materials, incinerators, smog, gasoline, groundwater (drinking, skin absorption), printed paper

damages: menstruation, respiratory system, brain, reproductive system, verbal memory, short-term memory, reaction speed; increases emotional reactivity and awake periods; induces asthma, blood vessel dilation, hearing loss (9, 23, 24, 100, 101)



typing correction fluid, polyurethane foams and elastomers (insulation, cushions), industrial uses

immediate (type 1) immune reactions, other immune-system changes; damage to mucous membranes; cough, wheeze; irritation of eyes, lungs (9, 47, 102, 103)



dry-cleaning, painting, spray painting, glue work, dewaxing and degreasing agents, insecticides, drain   cleaners, printing inks, solvents, varnishes; incinerators

damage to cranial and trigeminal (nasal) nerves, liver; brain fatty acid changes; narcotic symptoms: dizziness, nausea, numbness, alcohol intolerance; disruptions in memory and understanding; cardiac abnormalities, heart attack (in mice: cancers) (11, 24, 101)


Vinyl chloride

plastic wraps (‘Saran Wrap’), PVC  plastics, pipes and connectors;  packing materials, wire and cable coatings, footwear,

spray-propellant gas, hard flooring, vinyl records,  groundwater

liver, brain & lung cancers; trigeminal nerve damage, ‘vinyl chloride disease’ (loss of bone calcium, auto-immune complexes, peripheral nerve damage, Raynaud’s symptoms, immune complex disorder); skin damage, T-cell depression, kidney damage; sexual and sleep disorders (9, 11, 104-106)



paints, thinners, solvents, gasoline, polystyrene cups, adhesives, roofing glue, building materials, varnish, cleaners, paper, photochemical smog, groundwater

lung enzyme damage, upper respiratory irritation, fatigue, headache, nausea; impaired balance and reaction times (9, 107, 108)




REFERENCES For Common Toxic Chemicals Table located at: