Chemicals – those complex, unrecognizable ingredients that we learned about in high school science class. They are present in long lists on just about every household product that we use – but, no one ever really bothers to read them. Am I right? I do it all the time. Sure Ammonium Hydroxide sounds scary – but it is in so many products. How bad could it really be? Who cares? Well – we do, and we are here today to tell you that the chemicals found in our every day cleaning products can be detrimental to the environment and our personal health.
Know the facts
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that 53% of all household cleaning products being researched contain lung-harming ingredients. According to the Organic Consumer’s Association, many of these products also contain petroleum. Though not immediately hazardous, petroleum is a non-renewable resource, and our overuse of this product has incrementally increased our country’s dependence on imported oil. Therefore, plant-based products are much more environmentally-friendly (check your labels)! Phosphates, commonly used in detergents, are harmful to aquatic life and threaten our water quality as they lead to an overgrowth of algae, thus depleting the water’s oxygen supply.
Packaging is also a big concern. Most household cleaning products are packaged in plastic and/or PVC, or vinyl. While plastic contributes to our growing mounds of solid waste, PVC is made from several cancer-causing chemicals.
Some chemicals, referred to as “hormone disruptors” can actually impact the chemical messages that flow throughout our bodies. Consequences include male birth defects and certain forms of cancer. Most household products do not list these chemical names, but may include a danger or warning label. Avoid these products whenever possible!
Dangerous chemicals are literally everywhere – but perhaps the scariest fact is that their impact on our health and the environment often goes unnoticed. And as you already know, children are at a high risk. A study of the U.S Poison Control Center from 2000 tells us that approximately 120,000 out of 206,000 phone calls reporting toxic exposure were for children under the age of 6. And let’s not forget about our furry friends! So check those ingredients, and be sure to lock products away in a safe place.
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
9 Common Household Cleaners and Their Dangerous Chemicals
Most Common Ingredients: Ammonia, isopropanol, 2-BUTOXYETHANOL
Health Impact: Short term exposure can to window cleaner can irritate your eyes, lungs, and mucus membranes. It can also can chemical burns on skin. The long-term effects can include decreased lung functionality.
All Purpose Cleaner
Most Common Ingredients: Ammonia, Ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate, Sodium hypochlorite
Health Impact: Its poisonous if swallowed and cause lung, eye, and mucus membrane irritation. It can cause chemical burns on your skin and long-term exposure can affect, brain, kidney, and heart damage.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Most Common Ingredients: Sodium bisulfate, Oxalic acid, 5-dimethyldantoin, Hydrochloric acid, Phenol
Health Impact: You do not want to mess with this stuff. It creates a corrosive chemical when mixed with the toilet bowl water. If its touches your skin it can cause chemical burns. Keep children and pets away from it, swallowing it can corrode your stomach and mouth. And the phenols are suspected cancer causing agents not to mention it can cause nervous system depression.
Most Common Ingredients: Perchloroethylene, Naphthalene
Health Impact: Exposure to the fumes can cause nausea, dizziness, and disorientation. Prolonged vapor exposure can cause cataracts . In the long-term it can cause liver damage and cancer.
Foaming Shower Cleaner (mold & mildew remover)
Most Common Ingredients: Chlorine and alkyl ammonium chlorides
Health Impact: Like most of these products exposure to the vapors can cause breathing trouble. And swallowing it can cause burns in your throat.
Fabric Refresher/Air Refresher
Most Common Ingredients: Formaldehyde, Petroleum distillates, P-Dichlorobenzene, Phthalates, Aerosol propellants
Health Impact: The fumes while they smell good can cause skin, eye, and lung irritation. They are are also flammable. And formaldehyde is thought to cause cancer while phthalates can cause reproductive issues.
Most Common Ingredients: Cationic, anionic, or non- ionic solutions
Health Impact: If these are ingested they can cause nausea, vomiting, and even comas. They can also irritate your eyes and skin. The long-term impact remains unknown but don’t be surprised if there is one.
Most Common Ingredients: Ammonia, Detergents, Lye, Cresol, Phenol, Pine oil
Health Impact: Can burn and corrode your skin, eyes, and lungs. They can also cause nervous system depression and damage your circulator system. It has also been suspected to cause cancer and liver and kidney damage from long-term exposure.
Most Common Ingredients: Lye and/or sulfuric acid
Health Impact: It can burn your skin if it touches you, cause blindness if it gets in your eyes, and internal damage if swallowed. This is seriously dangerous stuff. And there’s a simple and safer alternative by using baking soda and vinegar.