Household Cleaners: Are They Safe?

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Are your household cleaners safe? When put to the test, researchers find household cleaners have been keeping a dirty little secret.


Before you decide to buy your next supply of favorite household cleaners, take a minute and read the label.


In Shelton Connecticut, chemical researchers test the air in parts of a house where cleaners are stored to measure volatile organic compounds. The meter used won’t measure how strong or harmful any chemicals found might be, but it will provide clues as to how many particles there are. Everywhere household cleaning products were kept, the readings multiplied. 


An average home, under normal circumstances should read about 50 parts per billion.


In particular, around household cleaners like Pledge, Clorox Wipes and Lysol Disinfecting Spray, Pledge registered 273 ppb. Clorox Wipes came in at 1,000 ppb, and Lysol Spray was much higher, around 1,200 parts per million. 1,000 times higher than the Clorox.Note: Anything over 500 could be a problem for people with sensitivities or asthmatics


We live in an increasingly chemical society and these chemicals are being brought into our homes unaware: experts don’t know how dangerous these chemicals might be, but they are starting to worry. 


Typically, the chemicals in cleaning products are found in small amounts, diluted with water. This does not necessarily make them safe. Ingestion of common household cleaning products by children accounts for 63 percent of the phone calls made to the National Poison Control Center.


Another thing to watch out for are aerosol sprays that contain nerve-damaging ingredients, such as hexane and xylene.


Also, aerosol sprays produce mist particles that can contain a high amounts of organic solvents, according to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. It warns that these solvents can be inhaled into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.


According to a 1999 study published in the weekly science and technology magazine, New Scientist, in homes where aerosol sprays and air fresheners were used frequently, mothers experienced 25 percent more headaches and were 19 percent more likely to suffer from depression, and infants younger than six months old had 30 percent more ear infections and a 22 percent higher incidence of diarrhea.


Some of the most alarming stories revolve around household cleaners containg chemicals known as ethoxylated nonyl phenols, which have recently been declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.


Also known as endocrine disrupters, these chemicals are called “gender benders” by environmentalists because they are believed to cause reproductive problems for some animals. For instance, a group of Columbia River otters, with large doses of ethoxylated nonylphenols in their bodies, can no longer reproduce because their penises are too small.


More than 56 percent of all nonylphenols used in Canada are found in cleaning products, notably in toilet cleaners and certain liquid laundry soaps.


Fomaldehyde is another chemical compound found in some household cleaners, but it is included as a preservative, not as a cleaning agent. Other chemicals commonly found in household cleaners include ammonia; nitrobenzene, which is a toxic organic compound frequently used in furniture polish; and phenol, or carbolic acid. Most ingredients in household cleaners are chemical compounds that are manufactured for other uses as well.


Be sure to inspect your household cleaners label for any of the chemicals listed above, and avoid them if you find they contain these toxins.


If you or a family member suffer from allergies, or are experience dizziness around cleaners, you should know you may be sensitive to household cleaners containing toxic chemicals and you should know there is an alternative.


Non Toxic cleaners are now available as an alternative to the toxic cleaners homes have been purchasing for years and a simple switch to green cleaners may be the answer to your problems.

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