Common Household Toxins

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Common Household Toxins
The trial rules of Potions and Poisons mention the following toxic household chemicals:
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Ammonia
Hydrogen peroxide
Rubbing alcohol
Bleach
Epsom salts
Vinegar
Nutritional supplements containing calcium and iron
Ammonia
The compound ammonia itself is a colorless gas with the formula NH3. However, it is most
commonly seen in households as a cleaner, where the gas is dissolved into water. It is most
dangerous when mixed with bleach, which causes the release of toxic fumes, which can cause
serious respiratory damage, in addition to potential chemical burns, headaches, nausea, or vomiting.
Hydrogen peroxide
A typical "brown bottle" of hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid. Its compound name is H2O2. It is commonly used as a
disinfectant, either for surfaces or for wounds. Because the concentration of most hydrogen peroxide
used in households (usually in brown bottles) is low, at about 3%, ingestion of small amounts of
hydrogen peroxide (diluted) does not usually cause any significant damage, apart from potential
stomach irritation. However, ingesting a large quantity can cause more serious stomach irritation and
may even cause chemical burns.
Furthermore, ingestion of a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide can cause much more
serious symptoms, and death in some cases.
Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol) is an alcohol with the formula C3H8O. It is most often used as a
disinfectant. When ingested, it is metabolized into acetone. This can cause dizziness, headaches,
vomiting, or even coma.
Bleach
Bleach is a solution of the chemical compound sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) in water. It is a strong
base, with a pH of 12.6. It is most often used as a household cleaner. As mentioned above, mixing
bleach with ammonia releases dangerous fumes. Exposure to bleach on its own can cause irritation
in the eyes, mouth, skin, and lungs, and can cause burns.
Epsom Salts
Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate) are salts with the equation MgSO4. They have many uses,
including uses as bath salts, as laxatives, face cleansers, cleaners, and as fertilizer. However,
ingesting high levels of these salts can cause magnesium overdose, which can lead to slowed
heartbeat, lowered blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and coma or death in serious cases.
Vinegar
Vinegar is an extremely common household chemical. It is an acidic liquid, a mixture of acetic acid
(CH3COOH) and water. It is used in cooking, cleaning, and medicine. However, concentrations of
acetic acid higher than 10% can cause skin damage/corrosion.
Nutritional Supplements Containing Calcium and Iron
An excess of calcium, known as hypercalcemia, may result from overuse of calcium supplements.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia include nausea, thirst, lethargy, and muscle weakness; in severe
cases, cardiac arrhythmias and palpitations may occur.
Iron supplements are often taken for anemia, but iron poisoning can occur and be potentially fatal,
especially in children under 5 years old. The GI tract and stomach become irritated and internal cell
reactions may be interrupted due to an excess of iron. Vomiting and nausea are some of the earliest
symptoms; if untreated, the liver may develop severe scars and fail. It can be treated through bowel
irrigation or chelation therapy.
Environmental Toxins
Iron
Iron as an environmental toxin is common in water; drinking this water may lead to effects such as
those stated above for iron toxicity. Iron particles may also have an effect on algal blooms and
impact the ocean's ability to trap greenhouse gases.
Arsenic
Arsenic, often consumed through polluted drinking water, may cause skin changes, infertility, and
cancer in humans. It often reaches the environment through copper, lead, and zinc industries, and
can be found in soil and bodies of water. Too much arsenic in the soil can lead to limited species
abundance and diversity, as many plants do not have resistance to arsenic. In the environment,
arsenic cannot be destroyed - only its form can be modified.
Copper
Copper can be released into the environment through mining, metal production, and various
industrial settings. Long term exposure to high levels of copper can lead to gastrointestinal issues
and possible damage to mucus membranes. Copper easily accumulates in soil and does not break
down. Thus, high concentrations occur, which makes it hard for plants to grow, reducing plant
diversity and potentially impacting agricultural practices. It may also interrupt decomposition of
organic matter in soil and can be damaging to fish and plants in aquatic environments.
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