So there I am, going about my business, buying new cleaner in Target. I see the white bottle with green leaves and I think to myself, “Oh this is better than using those bleach wipes because it looks natural. It even says the word NATURAL. I’ll buy it!” Then I move on to the hand soaps and sanitizers and toss a couple of them in my cart. I buy toilet cleaner and shower scrub and get to work on cleaning. Not even realizing that I am coming in contact with multiple toxins.
Its time to wise up. I totally include myself in that statement. I’ve mentioned before how companies so easily greenwash us, trick us into thinking a few green leaves on a bottle of counter top spray is somehow closer to nature than a bottle of bleach. Or something with lavender is better because you can’t get much more natural than lavender can you?
There are no federal regulation of chemicals in household products. So companies can concoct a magic potion of toxins that promise to clean and deodorize and kills germs but at the same time, this product is slowly killing us.
Common toxins in your household cleaning products are linked to asthma, cancer, allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities. Over time breathing these in or getting them on your skin can cause long term health problems and children are especially vulnerable.
There’s no law that forces companies to submit their products for safety testing or federal approval.
Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), explains, “Hundreds of poisons accumulate in our tissues, causing numerous diseases, illnesses, and eventually, death. Hundreds of diseases can be linked to various environmental toxins, but most people are relatively unaware of the daily toxic load they are accumulating.”
Scary, isn’t it? If you have switched your personal care products to ones that are natural, green and clean, then congratulations. You are taking the right step to unloading a toxic burden. The last step in my own process is getting rid of hazardous chemicals in the house- the stuff I use to clean.
Take a look at these typical toxins that are found in our household cleaners.
Find it in: household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.
Danger: Absorbed chemicals go straight to organs.
2. Perchloroethylene or “PERC”
Find it in: Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.
Danger: Perc is a neurotoxin and the EPA classifies perc as a “possible carcinogen” as well.
Find it in: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”
Danger: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. The EPA is currently investigating whether triclosan may also disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function. It is a probable carcinogen.
4. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”
Find it in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”
Danger: Quats are another type of antimicrobial, and thus pose the same problem as triclosan by helping breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant; one 10-year study of contact dermatitis found quats to be one of the leading causes. According to Sutton, they’re also suspected as a culprit for respiratory disorders: “There’s evidence that even healthy people who are [exposed to quats] on a regular basis develop asthma as a result.”
Find it in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.
Danger: This belongs in the category of “glycol ethers,” a set of powerful solvents. Law does not require 2-butoxyethanol to be listed on a product’s label. According to the EPA’s Web site, in addition to causing sore throats when inhaled, at high levels glycol ethers can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage.
Find in: More than 3000 chemicals are used in fragrance mixtures and various household cleaners. Companies are not required to disclose fragrance ingredients.
Danger: Many are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms.
7. Silica powder
Find it in: abrasive cleaning powders.
Danger: Rated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a known human carcinogen. This natural ingredient (made from finely ground quartz) is hazardous as a dust if inhaled.
8. Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate
Find it in: toilet bowl cleaners, surface cleaners
Danger: Corrosive; severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It can also form chlorine gas, which will burn the eyes, nose and mouth. High doses of this chemical cause kidney damage. In its concentrated form, this chemical is very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term effects in aquatic ecosystems.
9. Coal tar dyes
Find it in: Most cleaning products.
Danger: Derived from petrochemicals, possibly contaminated with trace amounts of heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead. There is concern that synthetic dyes may cause cancer and that heavy metals can harm the nervous system and cause other adverse health effects. Dyes in cleaning products can be absorbed through the skin or ingested in the case of soap residue on dishes. They are completely unnecessary to the cleaning function of the product.
Find it in: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.
Danger: A common ingredient in commercial window cleaners, can cause chronic bronchitis and asthma. Ammonia creates a poisonous gas if it’s mixed with bleach.
Find it in: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.
Danger: A respiratory irritant and may be a serious thyroid disrupter.”
You can use the following safe, non toxic ingredients to create your own cleaners. Take a look:
Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
Soap – unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
Lemon – one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
Borax – (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
Again, I have to warn you to be aware of greenwashing in products (go here for more on this topic). Even a line of well known “healthy” cleaning products contain multiple toxins. Your best bet is to seek out products from The Honest Company or Ava Anderson, which contain essential oils and are gentle and safe and best of all, they really work!