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4 Household Items That Pose Health Risks

Damaging devices with unhealthy side effects.

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Most of us assume if an item is for sale in a shop, it must be safe. But consumer history is littered with products that were recalled or banned because updated scientific analysis determined they posed a health risk. They include everything from CFC refrigerants (restricted because of damaging effects on the ozone layer) to lead in paint and gasoline (which scientists now know to be severely toxic to the nervous system) to Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA (banned from baby bottles in Canada due to evidence that its capacity to mimic estrogen links to cancer and could affect the body’s endocrine system). What else should you be worried about? Here are some gadgets causing medical and environmental concern.

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Coffee Pods

Single-serve coffee makers have exploded in popularity in the past decade; one in eight of us drink a cup from the machines on any given day. Though many coffee-pod designs use BPA-free plastics, research from the Georgetown University Medical Center and the University of Texas suggests that many plastics have the potential to release chemicals that can behave like estrogen in the body. “If you’re going to force boiling water through tiny little disposable containers, there’s no question that you’ll wind up with toxic ingredients in your coffee,” says Rick Smith, co-author of the 2011 book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things.

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Baby Seats

Car seats are designed to maximize the safety of our most precious cargo, so it’s ironic that they can pose a risk to children. They’re made from materials infused with flame retardants, chemicals that slow products from catching fire. However, due to their widespread use-in airplanes, cars and the sofa in your living room-the chemicals also make their way into our bodies. Studies consistently show that flame retardants pose a threat to our health through the liver, thyroid and nervous system. Canada has already banned many of these substances, but some forms remain in use, such as the phosphate ester flame retardants found in the fabric of Graco car seats in 2014. Check’s analysis to see
if your car seat has been tested.

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Non-Stick Cookware

We’ve long known perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the material used to make some Teflon products like cookware, is dangerous: corporate giant DuPont was fined $16.5 million nine years ago for exposing the public to PFOA and hiding evidence. The chemical is thought to cause birth defects, liver damage and cancer. The company and other manufacturers have agreed to phase it out by 2015, but non-stick cookware is already pervasive, and there’s no guarantee the new iteration will be safer. Studies of blood and breast milk show that the chemicals used to slick everything from pots and pans to rice cookers and waffle irons are common in our bodies, largely because they do what they’re supposed to-never break down. And one 2010 study of almost 4,000 people found a link between the materials and thyroid disease.

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Results from a government-funded study in the United Kingdom determined there’s one group who might be at risk from cellphone radio waves: children, since their brains are still developing. Thankfully, the report, backed up by other research, concluded there’s no evidence of harm from phone use in adults. So no need to ditch your handset, but you might want to think twice about giving one to your son or daughter.