They’re intended to make us look and feel better, but some of the items we find in our medicine cabinets are actually hazardous. Some toiletries, cosmetics, medications and first aid products may contain harmful substances that can actually put you and the environment at risk.
Commonly used products include:
- Nail polish
- Nail polish remover
- Hair colouring
- Mineral or baby oil
- Petroleum jelly
- Anti-bacterials and antihistamines
- Medications and vitamins
- Perfumes and fragrances
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
Why it matters
Many of the things found in our bathroom cabinets, from rubbing alcohol to vitamins to perfume, can be toxic to humans and animals. Beauty products such as hair colouring and fragrances can work wonders, but they use harsh chemicals to do so—chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through your skin.
If improperly disposed, medications from antibiotics to hormones to ointments can also leach into soil and waterways, upsetting the natural balance of our ecosystems. Items such as nail polish and nail polish remover are considered poisonous and flammable. Some items can cause severe allergic reactions, while others are suspected or known carcinogens.
What you can do
1. Choose safer alternatives
What’s the best way to manage household hazardous waste? Use less. When it comes to personal care items, there are plenty of natural options that are better for the environment and better for you.
- Go natural. Not ready to embrace your natural hair colour? Consider henna as an alternative to harsh chemicals.
- Avoid chemicals. Choose nail polishes that do not contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde or toluene.
- Go fragrance free. Many workplaces and public spaces have now implemented fragrance-free policies, due to chemical sensitivities.
Make sure you use up all personal products and over-the-counter medications you use before opting for new ones unnecessarily.
2. Dispose of it properly
Used medications, solutions and chemical cosmetic products do not belong with your regular garbage.
- Prescription and non-prescription medications should be returned to a pharmacy for proper disposal. Find your nearest drop-off location.
- Regional waste management authorities offer drop-offs and collection events that accept nail polish, cosmetic chemicals and other hazardous products from your home. Find your nearest drop-off site.