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    Household Chemicals Under the Sink

    Many household cleaning products harbor dangerous chemicals -- that’s why parents lock the under-sink cabinet in order to keep small children out.

    One of the most hazardous household cleaning products isn’t a single product, but a combination. It happens when you mix a bleach product with a product such as ammonia. This produces toxic gases, including chlorine gas.

    When you inhale the fumes, it causes coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, and watery eyes. And if the exposure is bad enough -- especially if you’re in a small, enclosed room like a bathroom -- can lead to chemical pneumonia and even death.

    “There are thousands of cases of injury from this combination every year,” says Blanc.

    So if you’re cleaning with a product that contains bleach, don’t use other products at the same time, such as:

    • Glass cleaners
    • Tile cleaners
    • Drain cleaners

    Even household vinegar also contains some acid, Blanc notes. And use caution when cleaning a cat box with bleach, since cat urine has a high ammonia content.

    Another major toxin you may find under your sink is a pesticide -- anything designed to kill bugs or other household vermin.

    “Peer-reviewed studies have shown that prenatal exposure to pesticides -- just regular exposure around the house, not just when there was a regular occupational exposure -- may be associated with an increased risk of childhood leukemia,” says Woodruff. “You’re much better off finding nontoxic alternatives to pesticides.”

    Radon: A Deadly Threat

    Finally, one of the most dangerous substances in your home may be one you can’t see at all: radon gas. “This is an underappreciated danger,” says Blanc. “Depending on where you live, it can be a serious hazard.”

    Radon, a radioactive gas, enters the home as a result of the natural decay of the uranium found in most soils. It moves up through the ground and gets in through cracks and holes in the foundation. After smoking, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in the country, and it’s the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Exposure to radon causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

    All homes should be tested for radon, but some areas are at particular risk. To find out your risk level and learn how to test, visit the EPA’s Radon web site.