Articles on the Toxins in Chemical Cleaners and Things You Can Do To Improve the Health of Your Home
What’s That Smell? Chemicals of Concern Commonly Found in Fragrance Used in Cleaning Products
Toxins in Your Home:
Eliminating the Toxic Mixture
By Edward R Close, PhD, PE
and Jacquelyn A Close, RA
A 1985 EPA report concluded that the toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air pollution. Also, a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on chemicals commonly found in homes identified 150 that have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological abnormalities. With windows sealed shut in the winter to conserve heat and save energy, and in the summer to hold in the cool air-conditioned air, these toxins build up to higher and higher levels.
Household cleaning products are among the most toxic substances we encounter daily. In one study conducted over a 15-year period, women who cleaned their own homes had a 54% higher death rate from cancer than women who did not. The study concluded that the increased death rate was due to daily exposure to hazardous chemicals found in ordinary household products. In addition to their inherent toxicity, these products also create tons of toxic waste which is disposed of in the environment in the form of air and water pollution and solid toxic waste.
Cleaning for Home Health...The Plain Facts!
When the air is tested in parts of a house where cleaners are stored, it is measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The meter won't tell you how strong or harmful the chemical particles might be. It will provide clues as to how many particles there are.
'Can always smell the cleaning products'
"You can always smell those cleaners even though they’re all tightly sealed."
Everywhere the cleaning products are kept, the readings jump. The average home normally reads about 50 parts per billion.
We asked to have tested three products that are often advertised on television: Pledge, Clorox Wipes and Lysol Disinfecting Spray.
Pledge registered 273 ppb. Anything over 500 could be a problem for people with sensitivities.
The Clorox Wipes came in at more than 1,000 ppb. The Lysol Disinfecting Spray was much higher — around 1,200 parts per million, or 1,000 times higher than the Clorox.
Koren says young children are especially vulnerable, partly because of exposure. Everything goes in their mouths and they virtually live on the floor. And young kids are more sensitive because they are still developing the basic body systems: the brain, internal organs, respiratory and immune systems are not fully developed until adolescence.
Koren and his researcher are studying the babies of women who were exposed to chemical solvents in the workplace. They're finding vision problems.
"Vision is one of the functions of the human brain, so it means that these chemicals find themselves through the mum, through the umbilical cord, into the baby, into the developing brain, and damaging functions there, and the baby is born already with a problem," Koren said.
Dr. Virginia Salares specialized in indoor air quality. We asked her what's in some of the products being marketed to young families. One product we looked at — Lysol Anti-bacterial Action Spray — lists ethanol 79 per cent. Not just any ethanol, Salares, says. It's denatured ethanol.
Salares has put together a book for us, full of data sheets which lists the hazards of specific chemicals in the workplace. Here's what she discovered about denatured ethanol:
"May cause irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, may cause central nervous system depression if inhaled or ingested."
There's also alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride — a pesticide.
The ads suggest you can spray this every day, where kids are playing. Salares says that's something parents should think about.
"Do they want to spray the air people are breathing? Or that kids with toys or surfaces that children are touching, do they want them sprayed?"
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes lists two ingredients: dimethyl benzyl ammonia chloride .145 per cent and dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonia chloride. Again, more pesticides.
"If you find that it has ingredients, which is a chemical you can’t even pronounce, you don’t know what it is, you don’t know how it can affect you. I think it’s about time you think, should I be using this?" Salares said.
The other product we looked at was Pledge. It doesn't list any ingredients at all. But Salares has looked into it.
"It has silicones…and it has butane gas…and propane."
And in glass cleaners?
"Some of them have what are called glycol ethers. and there’s concern over these products for workers who have been exposed occupationally. They have been seeing reproductive effects. In the semi-conductor industry they are being phased out," Salares said.