- Health Solutions
- Diet & Nutrition
- Skin Care
- Healthy Living
You are hereHome › Do You Have Hidden Toxins in Your Home?
Do You Have Hidden Toxins in Your Home?
Do You Have Hidden Toxins in Your Home?
We've all heard about the dangers of chemicals in our food and skin care products, but what about in our bathtubs and kitchen sinks?
Ironically, many of the detergents, polishes, disinfectants and other cleaners we use to zap disease-carrying bacteria in our homes are so laden with chemicals that they can make us seriously ill.
"Conventional cleaning products are often made up of a cocktail of synthetic chemicals that give them their cleaning power, make them smell nice and tint them pretty colors,” says Tracy Rysavy of the nonprofit organization Green America. “But there are several studies and analyses that have linked several of these chemicals to human health problems ranging from asthma to hormone disruption (which may contribute to breast and testicular cancers and early puberty).”
Furthermore, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “some [of these chemicals] can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.”
The EPA notes that chemicals in household cleaners can also cause:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
- Liver, kidney and central nervous system damage
So what’s your alternative, other than tossing out all your household cleaners and living in squalor? Experts recommend three simple ways to flush chemicals out of your cleaning routine.
1. Know your ingredients
Unlike with food, household cleaners don’t have to carry ingredient labels, making it difficult to determine if they contain toxic chemicals. Fortunately, you can identify several of the worst offenders with a good sniff.
Chlorine bleach. This known lung and eye irritant has also been linked to cancer in animals and, potentially, humans.
Found in: Dishwasher detergent, mildew removers, bath and toilet cleaners
Clean alternative: Bleaches made without chlorine
Fragrance. Scented cleaners often contain phthalates—chemicals that help the smell last longer—and synthetic musks. Many studies show these ingredients can cause hormone disruption, resulting in birth defects and neurodevelopmental delays in children. Chemical-based fragrances can also cause headaches, sneezing and watery eyes, according to the nonprofit Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
Found in: Most home-cleaning products
Clean alternative: Look for cleaners that list “natural fragrance,” made from nontoxic, antibacterial essential oils from flowers and herbs.
Petroleum-based surfactants. When these chemical sudsing agents, known as diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), come into contact with nitrite preservatives in cleaning products, they become cancer-causing agents that can easily penetrate the skin, according to the OCA.
Found in: Most cleaning products that foam
Clean alternative: Natural surfactants made from coconut or vegetable oils
Phosphates. These water-softening minerals create rapid algae growth in rivers and lakes, which can kill fish and other aquatic life.
Found in: Phosphates have been banned in most cleaning products, but are still common in dishwasher detergents, according to the nonprofit Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC).
Clean alternative: Look for detergents labeled “phosphate free.”
2. Avoid the “toxic three”
According to the WTC, the most dangerous home-cleaning products are lye- or acid-based drain cleaners, oven cleaners and toilet cleaners. All three are corrosive, meaning they can severely burn skin or eyes, or can cause internal burns if swallowed.
The WTC and OCA suggest these safer alternatives:
Drain cleaner: Use drain screens to prevent hair-based clogs. A kettle full of boiling water will often dissolve grease clogs, or try an enzyme-based drain cleaner.
Oven cleaner: Line the oven floor with foil to prevent spills. Soak food residue overnight in a mixture of water, baking soda and soap, and then scrub with a sponge dipped in baking soda and soap.
Toilet cleaner: Opt for an acid-free formulation such as a non-scratching scouring powder, and clean weekly.
3. Go natural
Buying green cleaners is easier said than done. “There is little to no government regulation in the labeling of household cleaners, so a company can tout its products as ‘green’ but can still include toxic chemicals and fragrances,” Rysavy says.
The WTC recommends choosing products with specific claims, such as “contains no phosphates,” rather than general claims like “environmentally safe.” You can also choose products approved by third-party organizations that examine ingredients for safety, including the EPA’s DfE Label, Green America’s Green Business Seal of Approval, Green Seal, EcoLogo Certified or the Natural Products Association’s Natural Seal.
Here are some links to products that have been certified:
For a list of natural home cleaners, click here.
By: Vicky Uhland
Vicky has 26 years' experience as a professional journalist and has written about healthy living topics for a variety of publications and websites, including Men's Journal, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times and Revolutionhealth.com.
March 22nd, 2012