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A few facts on regular cleaning products

  • If dust and germs are removed from your home with harsh chemicals, ask yourself what is removing the harsh chemicals from your home?

  • It is a recognized fact that chemical products used in our homes and places of work can lead to an increase of asthma, allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders, skin allergies and cancers etc.

  • Chemicals found in commercial cleaners are harmful to the nervous and respiratory systems.

  • They have a detrimental effect on our water systems.

  • Our wastewater treatment plants are not built or able to purify these kind of pollutants.  Every single chemical ends up eventually in the water that surrounds us, our ground water, our lakes, our rivers and seas, therefore, harming the environment.

Let’s take a look at some of the most harmful chemicals in leading all-purpose cleaning sprays currently on the market:

  • Toxic Preservatives: Many household cleaners contain harmful preservatives, like 2-BROMO-2-NITROPROPANE-1,3-DIOL (formaldehyde), which are known to cause cancer and are extremely toxic to aquatic life. They can also cause severe skin burns and damage our eyes–not exactly the kind of thing I want to be spraying all over my house.

  • Ammonium Hydroxide: Likewise, many multi-purpose cleaners contain ammonium hydroxide, which can burn skin, damage eyes, cause asthma and hurt aquatic life.

  • Colours: Artificial colors are so toxic that the US Food and Drugs Administration prohibits the use of this substance in cosmetics because it causes cancer in rats. But somehow, these chemicals are still allowed into our homes. 

  • Bleach: Also known as sodium hypochlorite, bleach is a common disinfecting ingredient that can cause severe burns and eye damage, not to mention it can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people after frequent exposure to low concentrations.

  •  Alkyl polyglycoside used in “ecological products” can damage eyes.

  •  Perfume and limonene-D can irritate skin; may cause sensitization by skin contact; and are very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. 

  • (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT) may be hard to pronounce, but they can be even harder on the body. These common preservatives are found in many liquid personal care products, and have been linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions and possible neurotoxicity.      

  • Alpha-isomethyl Ionone It’s been known to irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions for some people. After evaluating the potential side effects of Alpha-isomethyl Ionone, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) banned the ingredient from being mixed into fragrance products (i.e. perfume, cologne). But you can still find this ingredient in a variety of other cosmetics that are not categorized as a “fragrance.”

The Dangers of conventional air fresheners

Air fresheners, especially the aerosol kind, are loaded with chemicals and man-made fragrances that can cause all sorts of health issues, and even lead to cancer. Studies done by the Natural Resources Defence Council shockingly found that air fresheners do not undergo any actual tests for safety, which means they can be put on the shelves and sold without knowing how they may affect our health.

It was found that the majority of the conventional air fresheners on the market, even the ones that claimed to be “all-natural or unscented”, contained high levels of phthalates, which are known to be especially harmful to children. But even more disturbing was that this dangerous chemical wasn’t even listed in the ingredients of the air freshener.

  The NRDC goes on to explain:

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be particularly dangerous for young     children and unborn babies. Exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities, including abnormal genitalia and reduced sperm production. The State of California notes that five types of phthalates — including one that we found in air freshener products — are ‘known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm. Phthalates have been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neuro-developmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, and male fertility issues. A 2007 review by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defence Council found that 12 out of 14 widely available air fresheners contained phthalates.

  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene is another common chemical in most air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, and moth balls is 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, which is found in the blood of 96% of Americans! This toxic chemical is an EPA registered pesticide known to cause lung damage, asthma, and even cancer.

This chemical literally works by attacking the scent receptors in your nose and deadening your sense of smell, so you can’t smell any foul odours anymore. These modern day air fresheners don’t work by adding fragrance into the air, but by committing acts of chemical warfare on your sense of smell!

  •  PEG-40 is used as an emulsifier, PEG-40 is linked to asthma and respiratory problems, skin allergies and irritation, development and reproductive toxicity, DNA damage, and cancer.

  • 1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4-DCB)

Animal studies show that breathing 1,4-DCB can harm the liver, kidney, and blood. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined 1,4-DCB to be a reasonable carcinogen. EPA classifies 1,4-DCB as part of Group C, which means it is a possible human carcinogen of low carcinogenic hazard. California lists 1,4-DCB under Proposition 65, which indicates it is a known carcinogen.

But these harmful chemicals are only the beginning. In one study, researchers tested 74 air freshener products and measured the concentration of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the air after use. The researchers detected more than 350 different chemicals and allergens, including benzene, formaldehyde, and styrene, among others.

Febreze was one of the first “fresheners” to utilise this chemical in their products, and because of their success, many brands soon followed suit. This is why when you use an air freshener you can only smell the scent for a few minutes, then it disappears…but this isn’t because you just got used to the smell, it’s because your sense of smell was deadened by the chemical cocktail of the product.

Chemicals proven to affect lung function

It has been recently reported in the press that regular exposure to cleaning products can significantly affect lung function.

The study of 6,000 people by a team from Norway’s University of Bergen, found women appeared to be more badly affected than men.

Previous studies have looked at the short-term effect of cleaning chemicals on asthma, but this work looked at the longer term.

Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the Bergen team, said: “We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”

Adults in the study, published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, were followed for more than 20 years.

Their lung function was measured by looking at how much air people could forcibly breathe out – and the amount declined more over the years in women who cleaned.

The authors suggest the chemicals in cleaning products irritate the mucous membranes that line the airways of the lungs, causing long-term damage.

Oistein Svanes, who also worked on the study, said: “The take-home message is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs.

“These chemicals are usually unnecessary”.


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