Now a days de-toxifying is a way of life for many of us. We drink detox teas & smoothies, take detox baths, smear mud on our bodies, and even feng shui the energy in our homes to make certain that the energy isn’t toxic . . .
Yet some of the most toxic chemicals on the open market may be lurking under your kitchen or bathroom sinks or hiding out in your laundry room! Many common household cleaners can produce DIRE health effects on their own but can create absolutely deadly results when mixed together!
Of course we are concerned enough to put baby locks on the cabinets where they are stored when our children are small because all of these cleaning products carry strong warnings and poison control numbers on each of them. So in an effort to be certain that our precious little ones don’t either consume it or spill it on their tender skin we lock them away.
But you may not know that we should permanently keep those cabinets under lock and key and never use those products again for a whole host of reasons . . . from their damaging effects to our fragile planet to the damaging effects to our eyes, our lungs, our brains, our livers, our kidneys and our skin!
My research on this subject turned up a report from the year 2000. It seems that household cleaning supplies were responsible for approximately 207,000 calls to the Poison Control Centers in the US - which represented more than 10% of all toxic chemical exposures that year.
And that is an acute situation like a spill or ingestion, it doesn’t account for the accumulative damage to our organs that can result from the indoor air pollution they create.
With that in mind let’s get started with the damage they can do to our organs, glandular systems and even our cells . . .
Even if you protect your hands with gloves, you may still be seriously harming your health while washing the dishes, cleaning your pots and pans, scrubbing your tub, mopping your floors or cleaning your windows!
You see, each of the individual chemicals used to create a cleaning supply varies in the type of health hazard it poses. While the damage some of them create may result in acute problems like chemical burns to the skin, or they may cause your eyes to water (which by the way is your body’s way of washing the chemicals out of your eyes before they do more serious or long term damage), or immediate lung irritation or worse, damage. Other chemicals create long-term effects such as asthma, chronic fatigue, liver failure or cancer.
Here are a few of the most common and worst cleaning products found in your home . . .
1. Drain Cleaners - especially those that use lye (sodium hydroxide) or sulfuric acid are very harsh chemicals that can create severe chemical burns, while the fumes can also burn all mucous membranes
2. Oven Cleaners – contain sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide which can cause severe chemical burns to the skin, eyes and even the lungs
3. Toilet Bowl Cleaners – the chlorinated phenols found in toilet bowl cleaners are toxic to both the respiratory and circulatory systems.
4. Spray on Tub and Tile Cleaners – contain a host of hazardous chemicals including sodium laurel sulfate which makes those scrubbing bubbles while irritating your skin and opening it to receive more chemicals more easily. The ethylene glycol and monobutyl ether, which are industrial solvents that damage the central nervous system and irritate the skin, eyes and lungs. But MEA (monoethanolamine) is the most problematic because it is caustic and can trigger severe asthma, damage the liver and cause chronic hepatitis.
Combine these chemicals with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and lye and the mixture creates fumes that are so toxic they actually create severe burns on the skin, throat and lungs! Each of these common household cleaners use ammonia and chlorine bleach or ammonia and lye.
Each of these chemicals is so alkaline in nature that they are considered caustic. Individually they can create severe chemical burns but when combined they produce highly toxic chloramine gases and/or only slightly less toxic chlorine gas, just for starters! Plus the chlorinated phenols have been proven to be toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems.
This is all bad enough but it is important to remember that each time the toilet is flushed tiny droplets of water mixed with these chemicals and human wastes are dispersed in the air, settling on your toothbrush and more. Additionally, the chemicals in the other cleaners are reactivated each time the shower comes on and the warm steam mixes with the residue on the tile or tub.
5. Window & Multi-Surface Spray Cleaners - diethylene glycol found in window cleaners depresses the nervous system, while butyl cellosolve common in all-purpose, window and other types of cleaners, damages bone marrow, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver. Floor cleaners and polishes - 2-butoxyethanol, a solvent absorbed through the skin that irritates eyes and may damage red blood cells.
6. Silver, Copper, Stainless and Chrome Polishing Creams and Liquids – contain thiourea, which is categorized as a carcinogen by the state of California. The National Toxicology Program, an interagency government group, says that thiourea is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
7. Floor cleaners and polishes – many contain contains methoxydiglycol (DEGME), a toxic chemical which is "suspected of damaging the unborn child" by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
8. Furniture Polish – are primarily petroleum distillates - which are toxic to the central nervous system; formaldehyde – a known carcinogen; and propellants that are flammable and disburse the chemicals into a fine spray that can easily be inhaled.
But surprisingly enough, even the most seemingly innocuous products that we use daily are surprisingly high chemical offenders!
9. Dish Washing Liquids – contain Chlorine, alkyl phenoxy ethanols (APEs), dichloromethane (DCM), diethanolamine (DEA), dioxane, phosphates, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, formaldehyde, silicones, acrylates, phthalates, preservative, genetically modified organisms, and synthetic fragrances.
Individually they are each harmful but when combined they become more toxic. On top of the chemical soup in a bottle, when added to hot water the heat and resulting steam activate the chemicals, causing them to penetrate the skin and mucous membranes even faster. Add to that the fact that even a thorough rinsing does not remove all of the chemicals, so the next time you uses your plates, silverware and glasses you are actually consuming these toxic chemicals at rather alarming cumulative rates.
10. Laundry Detergents - Nonylphenol ethoxylate, a common surfactant found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, has been banned in the EU because it was proven to biodegrade into chemical compounds that were even more toxic than the original mix.
These fresh smelling detergents also contain toxins like napthas, phenols, phosphates, chlorine bleach, dioxane, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and synthetic fragrances.
The sudsing agents and surfactants (surfactants lift the dirt and grime out of fabrics, off your dishes, out of your carpets, etch and encase them in a “soapy” bubble so they can be rinsed away) are designed to be rinsed out, however they are notoriously difficult to eliminate. Just run your washer without adding any additional detergent to see just how many “bubbles” are still present in your load of laundry.
11. Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets – contain a whole host of harmful chemicals incuding:
Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant.
Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
Limonene: Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant, Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage.
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list.
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders.
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic.
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders.
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.
12. Air Fresheners – these are among the worst chemical offenders! The chemical soup that makes them up included acetone -the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; limonene - a molecule with a citrus scent; acetaldehyde, chloromethane;1,4-dioxane; formaldehyde – which irritates the lungs and mucous membranes and may cause cancer; petroleum distillates – which are flammable, irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs, and may cause fatal pulmonary edema in sensitive individuals; p-dichlorobenzene - which is a toxic irritant. The aerosol propellants used in some products may be flammable and may cause nervous system damage if inhaled.
According to a watchdog agency that analyzed the top 6 most popular brands, "Nearly 100 volatile organic compounds were emitted from these six products, and none were listed on any product label. Plus, five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic 'hazardous air pollutants,' which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe exposure level," Steinemann said.
If you listened to the July 18th broadcast of my radio show or my subsequent blog post… then you heard what I had to say about synthetic chemical-laden fragrances . . . and according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, more than 1/3 of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. And because the chemical formulas used to produce fragrances are considered “trade secrets”, companies are not required to list any of these toxic chemicals used as ingredients in the products and are only required to label them as containing fragrances.
And if you are at all sensitive, then maybe you have a reaction similar to mine when you walk down the isle in your supermarket that contains row after row and shelf after shelf of cleaning products . . . the fragrance is overwhelming! These fragrances can culminate in a sneezing fit, or watery eyes or even hives for many people, but I immediately feel as though someone stabbed me with an ice pick in the middle of my forehead! Keep in mind that each product is sealed in a box or a plastic bottle! So just imagine how much more potent those fragrances are when the bottle or box is opened and actually used!
Ironically enough, the products that generally contain the most fragrances are those used in laundry products! While many of these fragrances have become associated with clean laundry, if your laundry is indeed clean, there’s no need for all of the heavy fragrances! Right?
These fragrances are responsible for skin irritation, rashes and hives, upper respiratory irritation and even asthma plus they can trigger or worsen allergic responses. If you are already suffering from natural substances in your environment like pollen or dust and then you are bombarded with these chemical fragrances that can irritate your mucous membranes, it simply stands to reason that your body’s response to any allergen will be heightened!
There are also a few other products I mentioned while discussing bath and beauty care toxic ingredients are also found in household cleaning products that are worth mentioning again . . . things like the sudsing agents TEA & DEA. The biggest issue with these chemicals is that they do not exist alone in a product and when mixed with common preservatives like nitrates, they form extreme cancer causing agents that readily penetrate the skin. Another product on the bath and beauty care list was propylene glycol and it’s derivative PEG and there is yet another of it’s extremely toxic cousins ethylene glycol (just look on your bottle of anti-freeze to find 1 or more of these chemicals) commonly found in cleaning products and it is a well documented neurotoxin and ingesting it is fatal!
A few other chemicals fall into a totally different category - hormone disruptors. These chemicals can be found in fragrances and cleaning products . . . in test tubes they have been shown to rapidly increase cell division in breast cancer cells. These alkyphenol ethoxylates or APE’s mimic estrogen and may be linked to all reproductive cancers.
One of the things to keep in mind is that as you wear clothes that have been laundered in these chemicals you are being exposed to them all day long. But since you are generally moving about, may be in and out of doors, the exposure is bad, but maybe not as bad as the chemical burden in your home! And more specifically the exposure you receive while you are sleeping . . .
Let’s face it, in most parts of the country we live with some kind of conditioned air most of the year. In the Northern states the windows are shut and the heater is on for a large part of the year. While in the Southern states the windows are shut and the air conditioner is on most of the year. And if you live in many states you move from air that’s been heated to air that’s been cooled. And the more energy efficient your home is the less exchange of fresh out-side air gets into your home. This means that those chemicals and the combination of a variety of chemicals from different types of cleaners interact creating new and even more toxic chemicals are trapped inside your 4 walls! And you spend all night breathing them in very deeply as you sleep. Not to mention that they surround you in your laundered pj’s sheets, blankets and pillowcases.
While this is quite a lot to take in, all is not lost! In my next blog post I will be sharing some fantastic, inexpensive, safe and completely green household cleaning products. Some are from trusted companies and others are totally simply DIY concoctions!
So be sure to watch for my next blog post!