Common Household Poisons

woman in gas mask and cleaning gloves
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There are common household substances that are poisonous to humans. Take caution when using these items. Some chemicals become toxic when mixed together, others are poisonous when used as directed.

Mixing Bleach and Ammonia

In case your mom didn't tell you, it's a very bad idea to mix bleach and ammonia. The gas that results from these two chemicals is such a strong poison, it was used in the past as a chemical warfare agent.

All of these are potentially very dangerous, but this one sneaks up on you very quickly. Pay close attention to the products you're using to clean the house. Or, don't clean the house. In that case, you'll just need to break out the pesticides (see below) when the cockroaches come. Maybe you could hire somebody?

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that displaces oxygen in the bloodstream. Carbon monoxide can leak from any gas motor; lawn mowers, cars, boats, etc. It can also occur from gas-burning appliances that are not calibrated correctly.

Really bad carbon monoxide leaks can kill quickly, but usually, there's a warning. Be very concerned if more than one person in the house has a headache and is feeling nauseated. Those are the two earliest and most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Always question it if everyone in the house has the same symptoms occurring at the same time--especially in winter. When the windows are closed and the furnace is burning, just the smallest of leaks can have devastating consequences. Seek immediate treatment.


Organophosphates are some of the most deadly poisons in the home. Most pesticides, including lice shampoos, either have organophosphates in them or have similar characteristics. Pesticide poisoning creates a reaction that quickly leads to death if untreated. Organophosphates are currently used as nerve gas by some in the military.

Use these chemicals with great care and always follow the manufacturers' recommendations. Never put pesticides into a container without a label and especially don't put pesticides into a container with some other label already on it. Pay very close attention to the labels on the containers you have. There have been instances of patients mistaking prescription lice shampoo for prescription cough syrup because the prescription bottles were the same, even though the label was different had they taken the time to read it. In one case, a patient took a big swig of lice shampoo and was have seizures 15 minutes later.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is not really poisoning per se, but a foodborne bacterial illness. Most food poisoning is not life-threatening, but vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration over time.

Food safety is the key here. Don't eat things that have been left out. Cook meats thoroughly and always decontaminate surfaces and utensils between preparing raw meats and preparing other foods. As long as you take care of your food, you should be fine. If you do get a foodborne illness, you'll just have to ride it out. Most anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medications won't help.

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