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What Is a Toxic Chemical?

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This is the hazard symbol for toxic substances.

This is the hazard symbol for toxic substances.

European Chemicals Bureau
Question: What Is a Toxic Chemical?
You've heard that toxic chemicals are bad for you, but what exactly is a toxic chemical? Here's an explanation of what is meant by the term "toxic chemical" as well as examples of common toxic chemicals you may have in your home.
Answer: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA defines a toxic chemical as any substance which may be harmful to the environment or hazardous to your health if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.

Toxic Chemicals in Your Home

Many useful household projects contain toxic chemicals. Common examples include:
  • drain cleaner
  • laundry detergent
  • furniture polish
  • gasoline
  • pesticides
  • ammonia
  • toilet bowl cleaner
  • motor oil
  • rubbing alcohol
  • bleach
  • battery acid
While these chemicals may be useful and even necessary, it is important to remember they should be used and disposed of according to instructions on the packaging.

Natural Toxic Chemicals

Many toxic chemicals occur in nature. For example, plants produce toxic chemicals to protect themselves from pests. Animals produce toxins for protection and to capture prey. In other cases, toxic chemicals are simply a by-product of metabolism. Some natural elements and minerals are poisonous. Here are some examples of natural toxic chemicals:
  • mercury
  • snake venom
  • caffeine in coffee, tea, kola and cocoa
  • arsenic
  • ricin from castor beans
  • petroleum
  • hydrogen sulfide
  • chlorine gas
  • smoke

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