Healthy Living Dictionary: S-Z


S – Z
Selective Herbicide
Trichloroethylene (TCE)
Triethanolamine (TEA)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Warning (on Pesticide and Cleaning Labels)     
Weed and Feed
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SELECTIVE HERBICIDE (and non-selective herbicide)

Selective herbicides, such as mecoprop are designed to target one type of plant, such as broadleaf plants, without affecting grasses.

Non-selective herbicides, such as Roundup® do not discriminate. They will kill any plants with which they come in contact.

Most minimum risk pesticides (those that are exempt from the registration process because they pose little or no risk to humans and the environment) are non-selective. For example, St. Gabriel Laboratories Burnout Weed and Grass Killer is “For non-selective control of herbaceous broadleaf and grass weeds” Application recommendations include: “Spot treatments in lawn, Mulch Beds, Flower Beds, Around Patios, Walkways, Fence Lines and Driveways. Safe for treating weeds between crops, but don’t spray the crops themselves.”



Definition: the study of poisons and how they affect the body

For examples, check out the CDC's list: Toxicology FAQs for Chemical Agents



Term: Trichloroethylene [trahy -klohr-oh-eth-uh-leen]
Also known as: Trichloroethene, TCE

Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number (CASRN): 79-01-6

Purpose/ Definition

TCE is a widely-used, manufactured, chlorinated volatile organic compound. It is a colorless or blue liquid with a chloroform-like odor (Although exposure can occur at levels too low to detect through smell). 

TCE is a solvent in household and industrial products, such as: metal cleaners (degreasers), glues, adhesives, paint removers, spot removers, rug cleaning fluids, paints, and typewriter correction fluid. [1, 2, 3

Health Effects

"Carcinogenic to humans’ by all routes of exposure.”  

“EPA has concluded, by a weight of evidence evaluation, that TCE is carcinogenic by a mutagenic mode of action for induction of kidney tumors. As a result, increased early-life susceptibility is assumed for kidney cancer…”

  • Tumor Type: Renal cell carcinoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and  liver tumors
  • Test Species: Human (epidemiological studies) [4]


Noncarcinogenic Effects:

  • “Decreased thymus weight in female mice” (oral and inhalation exposures from drinking water, separate studies)
  • “Increased fetal cardiac malformations in rats” (oral and inhalation exposures from drinking water, separate studies) [4]

Neurological Effects:

High levels in the air (long-term exposure) affect “…the central nervous system (reduced scores on tests evaluating motor coordination, nausea, headaches, dizziness) and irritation of the mucous membranes.

Very high levels in the air (short-term exposure) “…irritate the eyes and respiratory tract, and can cause effects on the central nervous system, including dizziness, headache, sleepiness, nausea, confusion, blurred vision and fatigue.” [3]

More on Health Effects: 

Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry: Reported health effects linked with trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride (VC) exposure

EPA: Toxicological Review of Trichloroethylene Appendix D


“TCE is one of the most common man-made chemicals found in the environment. Frequently found at Superfund sites across the country, TCE’s movement from contaminated ground water and soil, into the indoor air of overlying buildings, is of serious concern.” [1] 

“People can be exposed to TCE in air, water and food. Exposure can also occur when TCE, or material containing TCE, gets on the skin.TCE gets into the air by evaporation when it is used. TCE can also enter air and groundwater if it is improperly disposed or leaks into the ground. People can be exposed to TCE if they drink groundwater contaminated with TCE, and if the TCE evaporates from the contaminated drinking water into indoor air during cooking and washing. They may also be exposed if TCE evaporates from the groundwater, enters soil vapor (air spaces between soil particles), and migrates through building foundations into the building’s indoor air. This process is called ‘soil vapor intrusion.’” [3] 

Drinking Water Limits

TCE’s Maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) (non-enforceable health goal): zeroTCE’s Maximum contaminant level (MCL) (enforceable regulation): 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb. [2]  

MCL level was set before TCE was considered a known human carcinogen. EPA will revise “…[MCL] for TCE as part of the carcinogenic volatile organic compounds group in drinking water…” [1]

LMG Article of Interest: TSCA: Targeted for Overhaul, Fall 2010

1. EPA Releases Final Health Assessment for TCE   

2. EPA: Basic Information about Trichloroethylene in Drinking Water

3. New York State Department of HealthTrichloroethene (TCE) in Indoor and Outdoor Air Fact Sheet: February 2005

4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS): Tricholorethylene Quickview (CASRN 79-01-6)



Term: Triclocarban  (trī-ˌklō-ˈkär-ˌban)

Chemical formula: C13H9Cl3N2O

Purpose: Antibacterial used especially in soaps. Its structure and function are similar to triclosan.

Health Effects

Environmental concerns: In June 2006, Environmental Science & Technology published a study which determined that even after wastewater treatment, 75% of triclocarban washed down the drain persists.


We can be exposed through inhalation and skin absorption.

For more information:

Find alternatives to triclocarban in the LocalMotionGreen Library: Soapy Solutions, Winter 2007

Visit Beyond Pesticide’s Triclosan page for more information.



Term: Triclosan (trī-ˈklō-ˌsan)
Chemical formula: C12H7Cl3O2 (a diphenyl ether)

Also known as: Trade names: Microban®, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Irgacare®, Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolum. 

Purpose: A broad-spectrum antibacterial/anti-microbial agent.

Health Effects

According to the CDC’s June 2001 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the overuse of antibacterials could mean a greater chance of allergies in children due to altered internal microflora that can no longer fully support the immune system.

A 2005 study published in Environmental Science and Technology found triclosan in dishwashing soap reacted with chlorinated tap water to create chloroform, reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

  • Scientists are concerned about more potent strains of bacteria thriving, since they survive after weaker strains are killed off by the antibacterials.
  • Several dioxins can be found in varying low level amounts as impurities in triclosaon. One dioxin in particular (TCDD) is a known human carcinogen.
  • Environmental concern: Triclosan can degrade when exposed to sunlight in rivers and streams to produce dioxin.


Triclosan is sold in nearly 1,000 products, including toothpaste, deodorant soaps, deodorants, antiperspirants, body washes, facial cleansers, exfoliants, acne medicines, detergents, dish washing liquids, cosmetics and anti-microbial creams, lotions and hand soaps. Triclosan, as an additive, gives antibacterial properties to plastics and fabrics, which are marketed as containing Microban® or Biofresh®.

We can be exposed through inhalation and skin absorption.

For more information:

Find alternatives to triclosan in the LocalMotionGreen Library:
 Soapy Solutions, Winter 2007

Visit Beyond Pesticide’s Triclosan page for more information.


TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) and Diethanolamine (DEA)

Terms: Diethanolamine (dī-ˌeth-ə-ˈnäl-ə-ˌmēn), Triethanolamine (trī-ˌeth-ə-ˈnäl-ə-ˌmēn)

Also known as: DEA (C4H11NO2) , TEA (C6H15NO3)

Purpose/ Definition

Cosmetic ingredients used as wetting agents (allow water to spread out and penetrate more easily) or emulsifiers (blend oil and water). Also used as detergents and foaming agents. Found in liquid laundry detergent, dishwashing detergents, hand and body lotions, shaving creams, fatty acid soaps, shampoos, cream conditioners, and bath powders.

DEA is also a corrosion inhibitor in metalworking fluids. Other industry uses include: adhesives; anti-static agents; cement and concrete work; coatings; electroplating; printing inks; metal cleaning and lubricating; mining; natural gas treatment; paint and pigments; paper, petroleum, and coal production; polymers and polymer production; rubber processing; soldering flux; textile finishing; and polyurethane production and use; and as an epoxy hardener, a fuel-gelling agent, and a pharmaceutical intermediate.

TEA is a coating ingredient for fresh fruits and vegetables. TEA is widely used in the manufacturing of household detergents and polishes, textiles, agricultural herbicides, mineral and vegetable oils, paraffin and waxes, pharmaceutical ointments, petroleum demulsifiers, synthetic resins, plasticizers, adhesives, and sealants.

Health Effects

If a product containing DEA or TEA also contains nitrites (either as a preservative or as a contaminant) a chemical reaction occurs forming nitrosamines.  Nitrosamines are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers nitrosamines hazardous substances.

The National Toxicology Program (Department of Health and Human Services) found “clear evidence” of cancer in laboratory animals as a result of the application of DEA to the skin. NTP found “some evidence” of cancer in laboratory animals resulting from skin application of TEA.


The National Cancer Institute nominated TEA for the National Toxicology Program’s Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies because of its widespread use in cosmetics and other consumer products, its high potential for worker exposure due to its many industrial uses, and its potential for conversion to the carcinogen N-nitrosodiethanolamine. DEA was selected for evaluation because its large-scale production and pattern of use indicate the potential for widespread human exposure.

May be listed on cosmetic labels as:

  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamide MEA
  • Cocamide TEA
  • Diethanolamine
  • DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
  • DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Linoleamide MEA
  • Myristamide DEA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Stearamide MEA
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  • Triethanolamine


The FDA expressed its concern about the contamination of cosmetics with nitrosamines in a Federal Register notice dated April 10, 1979 (44 FR 21365), which stated that cosmetics containing nitrosamines may be considered adulterated and subject to enforcement action.

In surveys of cosmetic products conducted in 1991-92, the nitrosamine, N-Nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA), was found in 65% of the samples at levels up to 3 ppm.

LMG Articles of Interest
Top 5 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid and Suggested Alternatives, Fall 2010

Lip Balms and Lotions, Fall 2009



Term: Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)

Purpose/ Definition

Chemicals that contain carbon and readily evaporate. They have low boiling points (usually less than 100ºC). Some are gases at room temperature.

Many are human-made chemicals used and produced in the manufacture process of thousands of household and industrial products.


VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products, such as: paints and lacquers, varnishes, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, pressed wood products containing formaldehyde glues, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions, as well as pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants.

They often are compounds of petroleum products, fuels (including propane, benzene, and other components of gasoline), solvents, hydraulic fluids, and dry-cleaning agents. VOCs are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. [1, 2, 3]

Health Effects

Health effects range from none known to highly toxic.

  • Benzene and formaldehyde are "Known Human Carcinogens"
  • Percholroethylene and styrene are "Reasonably Anticipated Human Carcinogens" [4]

Long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Short-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, nausea, and memory impairment. [3]


VOCs are released from products while in use, as well as when they are stored. Freshly dry-cleaned clothes can emit VOCs into homes, as can cleaning, painting, polishing nails, and using hobby supplies. Levels of VOCs are an average of 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Seal all exposed pressed wood, such as in cabinets and counters, to reduce formaldehyde emissions. Always provide plenty of fresh air during activities involving VOCs. Do not store products containing VOCs in the home. Outdoors, we are exposed to VOCs most likely in the summer when the sun and hot temperatures react with pollution to form smog.  [2,3

LMG Article of Interest
Flawless Furniture and Fixtures, Jan 2011

Scents of the Season, Dec 2010

Blown Away; Hair treatment highlights need for reforms, Fall 2010

Pretty Pure Polish, Fall 2010

Tips to Avoid Exposures, Fall 2010

Non-Toxic Nursery, Fall 2009

Paint Pure, Spring 2008

Air Fresheners, Winter 2006

H2O Cleaners, Winter 2006

Green Renovations, March 2004

Breathe Easy, Dec 2003

Wetcleaning, Dec 2003


1. USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

2. EPA: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

3. National Library of Medicine Tox Town

4. National Toxicology Program’s 13th Report on Carcinogens


WARNING (on Pesticide and Cleaning Labels)

“Caution,” “Warning,” and “Danger” are signal words used to denote the level of toxicity for household cleaners and pesticides according to EPA standards. One of the three following terms is found on the label.

Caution: Low toxicity: lethal dose is an ounce to more than a pint. Caution category is very broad. Includes products with varying degrees of safety.

Warning: Moderately toxic: lethal dose is a teaspoon to a tablespoon. Warning category may include such cleaners as: floor cleaners and disinfectant sprays.

Danger: Highly toxic: lethal dose is a few drops to a teaspoon. Danger category may include such cleaners as: oven cleaners, drain openers, rust removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Poison and the skull and crossbones symbol : Will appear on products labeled “Danger” if the product is highly toxic according to acute oral, acute dermal, or acute inhalation toxicity studies OR if methanol is present at 4% or more.

Other cleaner and pesticide label signal words:

Corrosive: Will appear on products labeled “Danger” if the product causes permanent damage to the eye or if the product damages or scars the skin beyond the surface layer where nerve endings and blood vessels occur.

Flammable: Product is inherently more dangerous due to flammable nature. The term “Flammable” also indicates the product likely contains VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate readily (offgas) at room temperature. Many VOCs are linked to cancer and other negative health effects.

For more information:
EPA: Label Review Manual

Download a PDF: EPA Signal Words



“Weed and Feed” are lawn and garden products containing both herbicides (pesticides designed to kill plants) and fertilizers. Due to their pesticide content, weed and feed products must be registered with the U.S. EPA. Most weed and feeds contain 2,4-D, a chemical linked to cancer in humans and pets. See Five Reasons Not to Use Weed and Feed

According to EPA’s 2005 Reregistration Eligibility Decision for 2,4-D, homeowners spread 5.5 million pounds of 2,4-D through weed and feed products on lawns annually. This does not include the amount applied by lawn care professionals. 2,4-D is predominantly used in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northwestern United States. EPA label requirements limit applications to twice per year on turf.

The broadcast use of weed and feed products leads to the application of pesticides where no weeds are present.

Corn Gluten Meal is considered a natural weed and feed. It prevents seeds from germinating and also contains approximately 10% nitrogen, which fertilizes plants.

LMG Articles of Interest
Pet Peeves: The Summer Months Can Bring Hazards to Animals, July 2011

Pesticides: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, Summer 2010

Lawn Sign Update, Spring 2008

Spring Checklist for a Healthy Yard, Spring 2007

Lawn Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs, June 2004


Published on January 23, 2015