Dangers of Garage and Antique Sales

Garage sales, antique shopping and pawnshops are all great places to find some really interesting items. In fact, they are great places to possibly find rare and valuable antiques. However, not many people consider the hidden dangers behind a simple event as a garage sale.

Before the modern research and technology we have today, the government was unaware how certain chemicals reacted with our body. Because of this, many older items, especially from decades before 1970, can contain very harmful substances. Luckily, the government and EPA have done many great things to improve the environment and keep it clean. Still, there is little they can do about manufactured items from recent decades.

Here are some possible chemicals that could be left behind and waiting for you at garage sales and antique shops.


In 1920, the use of lead became widespread. Lead was used in many different products, most popularly paint and gasoline. Lead primarily affects people as a dust that is inhaled. That is why it is important to wear masks when cleaning old paint off the walls of houses build in earlier decades.

Once lead enters the body, it attaches to the blood stream and then carried to organs. However, lead primarily rests within the bones and teeth and it can stay there for decades. Over a slow period of time, lead leaves the body through the urine and feces.

However, lead has been known to cause damage to the blood volume, causing anemia. It can also affect the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, muscles and brain. Some studies even link lead to memory loss, though researchers are still somewhat sure of that hypothesis. Low levels of lead exposure can lead to hypertension.


Asbestos is a chemical linked with mesothelioma, which is cancer of the outer lining of the lungs. In the early 20th century, manufacturers were utilizing asbestos in many products because it was inexpensive and an effective substance for insulation. The unique properties of asbestos allow it to absorb heat, force and electricity, making it ideal for insulation.

Asbestos may still be found in many antique products to help preserve them from breaking. Because of this, you need to be very careful when handling antiques, making sure asbestos wasn't used during the manufacturing process.


Glymes are chemicals that are found in different liquid products, such as lithium and ink. This is something to consider when purchasing any old liquid products. They act as a solvent.

The EPA is concerned with glymes because of their quick reproduction of toxicity. Users may suffer from adverse effects. Those effects, however, are still being discovered.