Our homes are filled with hazardous chemicals that some love and that, in sufficient quantities, can kill pets and people. Here are two you may want to reconsider using.

Salt lamps are the rage among some people. The alleged benefits are too numerous and specious to cover here. Suffice to say, salt lamps are big lumps of garishly colored salts (plural intended and meaning more than one chemical compound included). The rock is drilled to fit an electric light bulb that produces a warm glow and heats the salt, which somehow does something magical.

That lump of salt, however, can attract pets that may choose to lick it a bit incessantly. Inorganic salts are an irritant and can be caustic to mucous membranes and the digestive system. At best, the pet will vomit. At worst, the pet will ingest enough salt to cause bigger problems, even death.

The average human would need to swallow about 47 teaspoons of salt to die, based on the median lethal dose. Pets are smaller. Do the math. Licking the salt out of the bottom of a household-sized bag of pretzels or potato chips is enough to make a 25-pound dog vomit. I’ve owned a dog that did that very thing.

If you want a salt lamp around, keep it away from curious pets while not in use.

Another new-age hazard is essential oils. Again, chemical composition and alleged benefits are too complex to describe. What we do know though is people vaporize these things for so-called aromatherapy.

A big concern is the exact composition of essential oils is not known and does not need to be disclosed. Essential oils and salt lamps are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A few salt lamp and essential oil companies may use third-party testing laboratories and are conscientious about what they sell. Others do so to lesser degrees. And most? They do little but sell the concoctions.

Some users figure what seems to make them feel good must be good for their pets, too. They should think again. Shortness of breath, rashes and even liver failure are among the things veterinarians see when pets are dosed with essential oils. Inhaled oils can cause lung damage, chemical burns and even respiratory arrest leading to death.

Skin contact can in some cases be equally dangerous. A chemical included in some essential oil formulations is phenol. Phenol, and its subsequent chemical compounds, is a mildly corrosive organic compound. It is a precursor to many plastics and can be quite toxic to dogs and cats causing liver and kidney damage, respiratory and central nervous system failure, and potentially death in short order.

For adults who choose to use salt lamps and essential oils, there is little to say other than good luck and keep them away from children and pets.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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