4. Asbestos
You can see how the tiny asbestos fibers would get caught in your lungs.
 Wikimedia Commons

Asbestos is probably one of the chemicals on this list that you’ve heard of.

Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer. The TV commercials for mesothelioma lawsuits are ubiquitous, partly because asbestos use was so widespread.

What was once considered a wonder material is resistant to heat and fire, and it doesn’t conduct electricity. Asbestos was widely used for insulation, and in the construction of cars and ships.

Unfortunately, the tiny asbestos fibers that make it so attractive as a material can get caught in your lungs if you breathe them in, and cause cancer over time. This is why the EPA banned it in 1989.

A federal court ruling took some of the teeth out of the ban in 1991, though, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA’s decision. Many kinds of paper and flooring, plus any new uses of asbestos remained banned under the EPA’s 1989 decision.

While the ruling was a blow to the power of the TSCA, asbestos use in the US did drop from 803,000 metric tons in 1973 to 2,400 metric tons by 2005.