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Toxic Chemical exposure illustrative graphic
Bernard-Henri Louvat
CEO & Founder of Tera. I am a serial technology entrepreneur and I occasionally write articles for our blog. Drop me a line at if you feel like it!

The top most dangerous chemicals in consumer products

We’re surrounded by thousands of dangerous chemicals 24/7. Find out how the Tera app can help you avoid them.

You and your children are consuming everyday products made with toxic chemicals that cause cancer, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, ADHD, damage your organs and your reproductive system, disrupt your hormones, trigger allergies and skin irritation, and more. 

Toxic chemicals are any substance that is harmful to human health “if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.” 

These substances are invisible to the naked eye and with esoteric scientific names are not only disrupting the most important hormones of our body and brain but also laying down multiple paths of disease that will impact our children and their children decades into the future. These chemicals are produced and distributed on a massive scale and are minimally regulated. 

They are present in various aspects of our daily lives, from the products we use to the food we consume.

Understanding the impact of these chemicals is crucial for our well-being and the health of our planet.

Forever Chemicals

One group of toxic chemicals that has gained attention is known as Forever Chemicals or PFAs. These man-made chemicals have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s. With approximately 9,000 different forms, PFAs make surfaces slick and frictionless. They are found in non-stick cookware like Teflon, wrinkle-resistant clothing, water-repellent fabrics, and even some cosmetics and firefighting foams. 

The concerning aspect of PFAs is their persistence in the environment and the human body. They build up over time and have been linked to various health issues, including cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, immune system harm, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease. Shockingly, PFAs are present in 99% of Americans, and an estimated 200 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with PFAs.

Products that contain PFAS wheel


Another category of toxic chemicals that affects both human health and the environment is pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill pests such as insects, weeds, and mold. Unfortunately, these chemicals often find their way into our food system. Approximately 75% of non-organic fruits and vegetables sold in the United States contain potentially toxic pesticides. Even after washing, pesticide residues can remain on the produce we consume. The chronic effects of pesticide exposure include cancers, birth defects, reproductive harm, immunotoxicity, neurological and developmental toxicity, and disruption of the endocrine system. 

Moreover, these chemicals also cause environmental damage, impacting soil, water, and air quality, and affecting non-target organisms such as plants, birds, wildlife, fish, and crops. Herbicides, another type of pesticide, are used to control unwanted vegetation. Glyphosate, a common herbicide found in products like RoundUp, has been banned in more than 20 countries due to its potential link to cancer. Yet, it is still allowed in the United States, where it poses a threat to human health and the environment.

Flame Retardant Chemicals

Flame retardants present yet another group of toxic chemicals that have far-reaching consequences. For decades, flame retardants have been added to foam furniture, mattresses, couches, baby products, and electronics. These chemicals migrate out of the products and into our bodies, contributing to various health issues. Flame retardants have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and deficits in motor skills, attention, and IQ, particularly in children. It is alarming to think that the products we rely on for safety may actually pose a threat to our well-being.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are another class of chemicals that impact our health and the environment. VOCs are found in home cleaning products, paint, and dry-cleaning fluid. These chemicals off-gas as invisible vapor, polluting the air we breathe and potentially causing a range of health issues. Symptoms of VOC exposure include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, coordination difficulties, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens, adding another layer of concern to their presence in our everyday products.


The term “fragrance” may seem innocuous, but it hides a multitude of potentially harmful chemicals. Fragrance is present in numerous consumer products such as toilet paper, tissues, candles, cleaning products, personal hygiene items, cosmetics, rubbish bags, and even toys. A single scent can contain anywhere from 50 to 300 distinct chemicals, and approximately 4,000 chemicals are currently used to scent products. The issue is that manufacturers are not required to disclose these chemicals on labels.

As a result, consumers are unknowingly exposed to a variety of toxic substances. Many of these fragrance chemicals have been linked to chronic health issues, including cancer. Phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer, are associated with damage to the male reproductive system, while artificial musks can accumulate in our bodies and even be found in breast milk. Fragrance formulas are also considered top allergens, triggering asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. To avoid these potential side effects, opting for fragrance-free products is a wise choice.

Food Additives

Food additives, which are chemicals added to food to preserve it or enhance its color and taste, pose yet another concern. The United States allows as many as 14,000 additives in food products, some of which are banned in other countries. Overuse of food additives has been linked to obesity and chronic disease. While the FDA requires the listing of color additives, many other additives can be collectively listed under terms like “flavorings” or “spices,” making it challenging for consumers to identify the specific additives in their favorite products. This lack of transparency raises concerns about the long-term effects of consuming these additives.

chemicals in popular junk food

Artificial Food Dye Chemicals

Artificial food dyes are another group of chemicals that raise health concerns. Some artificial colorings have been found to be carcinogenic, yet they are still present in a significant number of food products. Red 3, for example, has been linked to cancer and is banned from personal care products in the United States. However, it remains permissible in foods marketed to children, such as popcorn, hot chocolate mix, candy, and strawberry- or cherry-flavored products. 

The FD&C synthetic colorant family, including Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3, have been associated with neurobehavioral problems in children. It is disheartening to witness major food companies utilizing these artificial food dyes in the United States while selling naturally colored or dye-free versions in countries where these dyes have been banned.

MSG & Sodium Nitrite

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly used in restaurant foods, deli meats, canned vegetables, soups, and other processed foods. While it enhances flavor and texture, some people are sensitive to MSG and may experience nausea, breathing problems, and other reactions. Additionally, MSG adds extra sodium, which can elevate blood pressure levels. 

Sodium nitrite, similar to sodium nitrate, is a preservative used in processed meats like salami, hot dogs, and bacon. Unfortunately, when added to these meats, they can create compounds in our bodies that are associated with cancer. High consumption of processed meats has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in the digestive tract, including the stomach and colon.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener derived from corn starch. Its usage has steadily increased in our diets, primarily in processed foods, baked goods, cereals, and soft drinks. HFCS is not only a cheap way to add sugar to our foods, but it also increases appetite. The average American has increased their consumption of HFCS to over 60 pounds per person per year. 

During this same period, obesity rates have more than tripled, and the incidence of diabetes has increased significantly. HFCS has also been associated with inflammation, certain types of cancer, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Other artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia, are commonly used as sugar substitutes. While their impact on weight management is inconclusive, studies have hinted at potential health risks, including a higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, and related cardiovascular problems.


Trans Fats

One toxic chemical that has received significant attention is trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fats raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels and pose a risk to cardiovascular health. In 2020, the FDA banned food manufacturers from adding partially hydrogenated oils to foods, but they may still be present in some products that have not yet been reformulated. It is crucial to carefully examine nutrition labels and ingredient lists to avoid these harmful fats.

Types of Fat graphic

Chemicals in Food Packaging

In addition to these chemicals found in consumer products and food, we must also consider the impact of chemicals used in food packaging and containers. Potentially harmful substances can migrate from packaging into our food, ultimately ending up in our bodies. PFAs, for instance, are added to packaging materials to create a slick and non-stick surface. Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) are other chemicals found in food packaging that can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system and affect reproductive system development. 

Despite efforts to move away from using BPA in can linings, the safety of the substitutes employed by manufacturers remains unclear. Moreover, the process of microwaving food in plastic containers or bags can also lead to the leaching of endocrine-disrupting chemicals into the food, even if the packaging is labeled as BPA-free. Plastic water bottles have also come under scrutiny, with studies revealing the presence of microplastics in bottled water. In fact, bottled water contains approximately 50% more microplastics compared to tap water.

What We Can Do

Food Packaging

The prevalence of toxic chemicals in our daily lives is concerning. From consumer products to food additives and packaging, we are exposed to a multitude of potentially harmful substances. Many of these chemicals have been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption. Furthermore, the environmental consequences of these chemicals cannot be ignored, as they contribute to pollution, damage ecosystems, and harm non-target organisms.

It is crucial for individuals to be aware of these toxic chemicals and take steps to minimize their exposure. Reading labels, choosing organic and natural products, and reducing reliance on processed foods can all help in making healthier choices. Invest in a high-quality water filtration system and air purifier for your home. Additionally, advocating for stricter regulations and transparency in labeling is essential to protect public health and the environment.

Ultimately, addressing the issue of toxic chemicals requires collective action. Consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers all have a role to play in promoting safer alternatives and reducing the use of harmful substances. By raising awareness, demanding change, and supporting brands and products that prioritize health and sustainability, we can create a safer and more environmentally conscious future for ourselves and future generations.

The Tera App

Tera revolutionizes the way consumers make informed choices about their health and the environment. With its advanced analysis and scoring system, comprehensive ingredients database of 250,000+ unique substances, and 3M+ ingredients synonyms matched with a growing list of health and environmental hazards, Tera provides unparalleled transparency regarding the health and environmental impact of ingredients and chemicals found in cleaning, personal care, cosmetics, and food products.

The app allows users to personalize their experience by selecting specific health and planet impact attributes that align with their health needs & environmental values. This customization empowers users to:

      1. Filter and purchase products: Tera enables users to filter and purchase products that align with their health and environmental values from major retailers and over 10,000 brands. Whether it’s avoiding harmful chemicals or supporting sustainable practices, users can make conscious buying decisions with ease.

        1. Search for preferred products: The app’s powerful search functionality allows users to find products that meet their specific preferences. Whether it’s a preference for organic ingredients, cruelty-free products, or eco-friendly packaging, Tera helps users discover the perfect match.

          1. Discover products in a private aisle: Tera creates a personalized shopping experience by curating a private aisle for users. This feature ensures that users can easily access and explore products that align with their health and environmental values.

            1. Scan and score products: Tera goes beyond the digital aisles by allowing users to scan and score products at home and in stores.. With a simple scan, users can access detailed information about a product’s ingredients, chemicals, and overall health and environmental impact.

              1. Get recommendations for healthier alternatives: Tera’s recommendation engine suggests healthier and more sustainable alternatives to conventional products. By considering a user’s preferences and values, the app guides users towards choices that are both beneficial for their well-being and the planet.

            In essence, Tera empowers consumers to make informed decisions, vote with their dollars, and support socially responsible brands. By using the app, individuals can prioritize their health, consume sustainably, and contribute to positive change. Tera is not just a tool; it’s a movement towards a healthier and more environmentally conscious future.

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            Tera App screenshots
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            Bernard-Henri Louvat
            Bernard-Henri Louvat
            2 months ago

            I hope you enjoy my article!

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