Toxic Chemicals: What's in Your Home?

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Updated on Jan 25, 2013

Imagine a monster wants to come live in your house. Would you let it? Monsters are pretty famous for being scary and hurtful. While it might not seem like a hard decision to keep a monster away from your loved ones, did you know that many families keep harmful things in their houses without even knowing it?

Take a deeper look into this worrying mystery with a study of toxic chemicals. You'll find out if some of your own friends and family members have toxic materials inside their own homes. You know what's easier to get rid of then a monster? A badly made product hiding a toxic chemical or two!


How often do people use products that contain a toxic chemical?


  • Pen
  • Notebook
  • Volunteers
  • Printer
  • Computer


  1. Study the following list of chemicals. All of them are considered toxic. Do you recognize any of them?
    • Phthalates
    • Diazolidinyl urea
    • Mineral oil
    • Ammonia
    • Sodium lauryl
    • Oxybenzone
    • Chlorphenesin
    • Synthetic colors
    • Disodium EDTA
  2. Carefully write this list on a word processor on your computer.
  3. Print ten copies of this list.
  4. Gather your volunteers. Hand each one a list. (It's okay if you have some left over, and if you more than ten volunteers, just print out a few more copies. )
  5. Tell your volunteers that they will be going on a chemical treasure hunt. Do not tell them that the chemicals on the list are toxic.
  6. Instruct your volunteers to go home and check the labels of their cleaning products and other assorted products. When they find a chemical on the list, they should make a note of what product it was in. Encourage your volunteers to find as many of the chemicals as they can.
  7. Before you start searching your own home, think about what you know about toxic materials and household products. Do you think it's possible that companies make products using toxic materials?
  8. Consider this project's question: how often do people use products that contain a toxic chemical? Write down your guess, or hypothesis, in your notebook.
  9. You may have to wait a day or two before you can gather back all the lists from your volunteers. Be patient. A good scientist doesn't rush results.
  10. Once you have all the lists, compare them. Did any of the volunteers find a toxic chemical in their homes?


Most, if not all the volunteers will probably have found at least one of chemicals on the list.


A lot of companies try to find the cheapest way to make their products. Sometimes the cheapest way doesn't always equal the safest product. If a company can make window cleaner or sunscreen cheaper by using a toxic chemical, they won't always make the best decision. The toxic chemicals from the list can cause sores and rashes -- the effects aren't usually life-threatening, but they're not fun either.

Encourage your volunteers and your own family members to check the labels before they buy products. At your grocery store, you can even find products that are made from 100% organic materials (in other words, natural materials from the earth not chemical materials made in a lab)

Help make your home safer by continuing your toxic studies! Research other chemicals that may be toxic and conduct another chemical treasure hunt. Test your friends to see if they even know that common products like cleaners can be toxic. Keep guessing and testing -- that's what real scientists do.

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