What exactly is in common household cleaning products?

Take a closer look under your sink. Warning Labels? Strange Ingredients? What's it all mean? Well, first of all, most hazardous ingredients fall into three main categories:

  1. Carcinogens– Cause cancer and/or promote cancer’s growth 

  2. Endocrine Disruptors – Mimic human hormones, confusing the body with false signals. Exposure can lead the numerous health concerns including reproductive, developmental, growth, and behavior problems. They have been linked to reduced fertility, premature puberty, miscarriage, menstrual problems, challenged immune systems, abnormal prostate size, ADHD, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and certain cancers.

  3. Neurotoxins – Alter neurons, affecting brain activity causing a range of problems from headache to loss of intellect. We all see the common product warning labels, but it is difficult to quantify what they mean. For a 180 pound male: CAUTION means one ounce to one pint may be harmful or fatal. WARNING means one teaspoon to one ounce may be harmful or fatal. DANGER means one taste to one teaspoon is fatal.

Most (if not all) products under your kitchen sink contain the following toxic chemicals:

•   Pesticides – Common sense tells us that killing household germs protect our health but disinfectants are pesticides. Pesticides are fat soluble making them much more difficult to detoxify from your body once ingested. Pesticides are carcinogens andendocrine disruptors.

•   APEs – Are surfactants, put into cleaning solutions to lower the surface tension of the liquids making them easier to spread.  They are found in detergents, disinfectants, all purpose cleaners, laundry soap, and many self care items including disposable baby diapers. APEs are endocrine disruptors.

•   Formaldehyde – Is commonly known as a preservative, but is also a germicide, bactericide, and fungicide. It is found in many common household cleaners and disinfectants. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen.

•   Organochlorides – Result from the combination of hydrogen and carbon. They are bioaccumulative meaning that small exposures over time can build up in your body to produce toxic chemical levels. They are also highly persistent in the environment and are found in pesticides, detergents, degreasers, bleaches, and dry cleaning fluids. Organochlorides are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

•   Styrene – Is naturally occurring and found in the Styrax tree. It is commonly used in plastic, carpet backing, and PVC but it is also found in floor waxes and polishes, and metal cleaner. Exposure may affect the central nervous system, liver, and reproductive system. Styrene is a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor.

•   Phthalates – Are used as carrier for perfumes and air fresheners and as skin penetration enhancers for products such as moisturizers. No product labeling requirement exists for phthalates, and they are known to cause hormonal abnormalities, thyroid disorders, birth defects, and reproductive problems. Phthalates arecarcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

•   Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) – Emitted as gases suspending themselves in the air. VOC’s include an array of chemicals and are present in perfumes, air fresheners, disinfectants, deodorizers and household paint. VOC’s include propane, butane, ethanol, phthalates, and/or formaldehyde. They are collectively thought to be reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, liver toxins, and carcinogens.

Symptoms of exposure to these chemicals include but are not limited to:

headache, stiff joints, certain types of cancer, diarrhea, dizziness, backache, nausea, asthma/allergy attacks, memory loss, stuttering, premature puberty, low sperm count, reduced motor skills, sudden mood swings, dyslexia, ADHD, antisocial behavior/autism, and birth defects.

For more information and instructions on safe disposal of these toxic cleaners click here.

Did you know?

•   The indoor air pollution in your home is typically two to five times worse than outdoor air pollution, and indoor air quality is one of the EPA’s top five environmental risks to public health. What causes indoor air pollution? Sources include biological contaminants such as mold and pollen, tobacco smoke, gases including radon and carbon monoxide, some materials used in the construction of your home, and household cleaning products.

•   Common household cleaning products include a vast array of chemicals, most of which have not been tested for environmental or health effects on humans. In more than 30 years the EPA has only required testing of 200 of over 62,000 chemicals and are partially regulating only five. The rest have never been fully assessed. Manufactures of household cleaning products are not required to fully disclose all of the ingredients in their cleaners, adding to the secrecy behind the bottle.