03/25/2014 01:00 pm ET

How To Avoid Bringing Toxic Chemicals Into Your Home

Yellow notepads, rubber duckies and even those iconic smiley-face yellow t-shirts could all be hazardous to our health. The culprit? PCB 11, the toxic chemical du jour and the subject of recent media uproar. "PCBs cause a whole range of really worrisome health problems," said Lisa Rodenburg, associate professor in environmental chemistry at Rutgers and co-author of this revealing new study. "There is enough evidence that there could be health effects from this specific kind of PCB that we should investigate further." Potential negative health effects include cancer, skin irritations (including bad acne), developmental problems and birth defects; and those are just the reactions the team has discovered so far. No one is unaffected by this ubiquitous yellow dye PCB 11.

Of course, that's just one of the toxic chemicals we are exposed to every day. Almost every conventional product on the market is made with potentially hazardous chemicals, but by staying informed you can protect yourself and your family.

Start with using only natural, plant-based cleaners on your floors. Most carpet cleaning products are made with Perchloroethylene and Naphthalene, two chemicals that remove stains and odors, while also exposing you to reactions that include dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, nausea and skin and respiratory irritation, and that's just with minimal contact. Prolonged exposure as a result of repeat usage has been linked to liver and kidney damage, and cancer.

Another toxic agent could be hiding in your mattress. Did you know, most mattresses -- adult and child-sized -- are treated with Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, which are chemical fire retardants that accumulate in our bodies and have been shown to affect the endocrine and nervous systems. A better option is to invest in an organic mattress that isn't chemically-treated.

Don't forget the products in your bathroom; that toxic yellow rubber duckie may not be the only thing harboring dangerous chemicals. Unless, you consciously make a choice to purchase only natural, organic personal care products such as skin care, cosmetics and toothpaste then you might want to avoid your bathroom.

Most conventional bath products -- yes, even the kid-friendly variety -- are made with toxins such as Diethanolamine (DEA), sulfates, dyes, numbing agents and other harmful ingredients that can lead to allergies including synthetic fragrances, dairy, soy, peanuts and gluten. Ingredient lists are compiled based on the amount of each ingredient in the product, and are written from highest to lowest percentage. With that in mind, thoroughly investigate the ingredients of all your bathroom products, even those that claim to be natural.

A healthy consumer is an educated consumer. Claims such as nontoxic, bio-based, chlorine-free, organic, phosphate-free, natural fragrance and biodegradable are not carefully regulated so always research a product thoroughly before you make a purchase. The Environmental Working Group features safety rankings for thousands of products to keep you educated and safe.

Talk to us: Are you making the choice toward natural, homemade products more often?