Category Archives: Green Household Products

Household Cleaning Products Making People Sick

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Over a decade ago I read an article titled, “Is Cancer in Your Tub?” The information within the article came from a Network News Publication that caught my attention. In essence it included how FDA approved chemicals found in household products made people sick – with a connection to illness and disease. At the time, consumer safety activists were outraged by the amount of FDA approved ingredients known to be harmful to health in general and especially through long term use. Advocates worked hard then as they do today, to call on manufacturers to remove unnecessary and harmful chemicals from all consumer products.

Over the last 20 years this movement has generated a whole new culture that prioritizes safe home use cleaning products… however, a plethora of household cleaning brands with toxic chemicals still fill marketplace shelves. Other industries like cosmetics and processed foods are also a concern for advocacy groups.

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Back in 2007, I was interested to learn more about toxic chemicals in consumer products known to cause illness and disease. Then wondered why other safe ingredients couldn’t be used instead… This led me to read a published brochure by author Debra Lynn Dadd, “Please Protect Yourself from Household Toxins.” I would like to share a portion of that information found in her literature, and why its so important for consumer safety education to continue.

She wrote,

“While certain people may be more sensitive than others, and some chemical(s) may bring on reactions only after many years of repeated exposure, I discovered through my research that chemicals may bring on reactions only after many years of repeated exposure, I discovered through my research that chemicals in the home could put anyone at risk.”

“It is just as important today as it was over a decade ago, to educate the public on harmful household use products as it is within our foods marketplace. And how some people are more sensitive to certain chemical exposures than others. Although it appears certain, many harsh chemicals in our household products, like chemically engineered foods have improved throughout the last decade. The household products and foods found within the marketplace require consumer scrutiny to minimize health risk.”

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“Cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, heart disease… Almost any symptom imaginable, both physical and psychological, has been associated with chemicals in common household products. Recently, scientists have discovered that toxic chemicals can lodge in our endocrine system contributing to thyroid problems, diabetes, weight gain, and infertility. At greatest risk are fetuses, children, the elderly, and those who are already ill, but these chemicals are threatening the health of everyone, every day” [Dadd 2007]. [Learn more about Debra Dadd history and books].

Research shows a plethra of chemical toxins are still found in a majority of consumer product ingredients today. What has changed from 2007, is the advancement of green and safe eco-friendly home use and personal hygiene products within the marketplace. The foods markets have also advanced in healthier alternatives. But like household cleaners, the old brands through rebranding and relabeling are alive and well.

As Dodd stated in 2007, “It is just as important today as it was over a decade ago, to educate the public on harmful household use products as it is within our foods marketplace.”

Her statement was valid then and continues to be true today. If safe consumer advocacy and education stopped, how would the next generation identify and change unhealthy consumer habits and behaviors to minimize health risk? What incentives would manufacturers have to change their policies, ingredients and procedures, etc. Without public education – supply and demand don’t change into healthier outcomes. This dynamic if not kept in check cause more people get sick… put unnecessary burdens on families, employers and limited community medical services-resources, etc.

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At the time I originally published this article on 25 June 2008, I also cited a related publication within an AARP Bulletin Today, May 2008, Vol.49 No. 4. I’d like to share a portion of that article – “Hazards at Home,” by Reed Karaim.

“And older people are more likely to have conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes – that can dramatically reduce their ability to withstand exposure to environmental hazards… The stakes are high. Older people tend to process and eliminate toxicants from their bodies more slowly than younger people. And “as we age, we become less efficient at detoxification – the slowing down of kidneys, liver and immune system functioning all play a role. In this older people are more like infants and children in their ability to fend off toxic assaults, says Sandra Steingraber, the author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.” It is still true today… seniors are at higher health risk when using aerosol air fresheners and disinfectants, and liquid household sprays and detergents with toxic chemical ingredients.”

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CleanersChemicals to avoid in cleaners, says McRandle (Paul McRandle, Deputy Editor at the National Geographic Green Guide), run from ammonia, which is known to trigger asthma, elements in chlorine bleach, which is a lung irritant and will kill you if you swallow it, to things like glycol ethers, which are used to dissolve grime and dirt, and can cause nerve damage.’ … Protect your skin by wearing rubber gloves and your lungs by ventilating your work area or wearing a mask.”

Although this article focused mainly on toxic household cleaners, It was simply amazing to also find within these early publications, glycol ethers and propylene Glycol (ingredient found in anti-freeze), are ingredients still found within many of our personal hygiene products: i.e., shampoos, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, toothpaste and pet food.

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This left the question in my head… Why is it necessary to put these carcinogenic solvents in any consumable, or personal hygiene, or household product? Especially when manufacturers know how to make a non-toxic, eco-friendly, safe, or safer version? The answer is very clear. It’s all about the bottom line… has to be.

The worst of the worst home cleaning products harmful to health appear to be spray cleaners and chemical air fresheners…

“Research shows that spray cleaners are the most toxic because they provide the greatest exposure to the chemicals in toxic household cleaners. In fact, a 2018 study found women who used sprays or other cleaning products at least once per week had a steeper decline in lung function than women who didn’t” [nontoxicforhealth 2018].

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The marketplace won’t eliminate all the chemical toxins problems found in household cleaners and personal hygiene products anytime soon. However, there are eight proactive and protective measures you can take now to reduce the risk of increasing health risk when cleaning your home.

Reduce Health Risk During Sanitizing, Disinfecting and Cleaning House

  1. Use non-toxic household cleaning products made from citrus and essential oil, and other natural ingredients. Change to eco green friendly – safe cleaning products.
  2. Don’t use toxic aerosol sprays to clean and freshen air – they attach to wall surfaces and carpet and furniture [Sprayed chemicals linger in your home’s air the longest.].
  3. Run away from heavily concentrated ammonia-based cleaners – especially if you have respiratory or a weakened immune system.
  4. Any ingredient name you can’t pronounce, or have to look up, including chemical fragrances [not natural], are likely toxic to health and may cause eye and respiratory and skin irritation. If bottle label cautions: Harmful to health and may cause death is swallowed – Look for alternative safe product choice.
  5. All consumers, especially seniors should consider throwing away toxic cleaning products and replacing them with bio-degradable and natural and organic products to reduce allergy symptoms, illness and health risk.
  6. If you have any type of unexplained skin, eye irritation, respiratory allergic reaction, etc., after using a cleaning agent, or air freshening product, avoid further use.
  7. If you have an acute, or chronic reaction to any household cleaner, or air freshener product, see your doctor immediately.
  8. Wear eye protection, mask and gloves whenever using household cleaning products and ventilate space well with fresh air.

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET2021 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.org,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.