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Household Chemicals in the Kitchen continued...

Glass is generally safer than plastic as a storage medium, but that’s not always the case. Leaded crystal and glass -- like the fine stemware and decanters you may keep for special occasions -- are called “leaded” because they do, indeed, contain lead.

Now, just drinking out of a leaded glass goblet shouldn’t be a problem because the drink doesn’t stay in the glass long enough to absorb anything. “But if you store brandy in a leaded-glass decanter, the longer you store it, the more lead will leak into the alcohol,” says Paul Blanc, MD, MSPH, chief of the division of occupational and environmental medicine and the endowed chair of occupational medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

So if you must use that gorgeous lead-glass decanter, pour your brandy or whiskey into it right before you entertain, and pour any remnants out at the end of the evening.

Household Chemicals in the Bathroom

“I’ve heard that the average woman uses about 12 personal care products every day,” says Woodruff. Add them up: soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lipstick, mascara, blush, lotion, baby oil -- the list goes on. Are these products safe?

Two types of chemicals that are found in some of these products, and the containers they come in, are phthalates and parabens. (There are a lot of these in baby care products as well.) Like BPA and its relatives, they are also endocrine disruptors. How bad are they for you?

“It’s hard to tell,” says Woodruff. “If all you ever did was use a shampoo with phthalates, that’s probably not a big deal. But the fact is that people are exposed to multiple phthalates, and also parabens and lots of other chemicals. Science tells us that if you get exposed to multiple chemicals on top of others, you get enhanced effects.”

She advises seeking out cosmetics, shampoos, and skin care products labeled “paraben free” and “phthalate free” whenever possible.

What about that baby powder you use on your little one’s tender skin? If you choose to use baby powder, pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face. Talc or cornstarch in baby powder can cause breathing problems.

Another item found in your bathroom that poses potential hazards is petroleum jelly. You may remember that mom would rub it around your nostrils when you had a cold to ease the pain of a nose raw from running and rubbing. That’s fine over a short period of time, but if you do it for many weeks or months at a time, the jelly you inhale without realizing it can cause a gradual buildup of lung damage. Doctors call this “lipoid pneumonia.” Try using a vaporizer or humidifier in your room instead.