The Dilemma of the Cleaner – Getting Sick from Cleaning for Health
- ButoCleaning product labels can be misleading, and many cleansers labeled “natural” or “gentle” xyethanol: A common ingredient in kitchen, window, and multipurpose cleaners that can interfere with the health of your red blood cells.
Ammonia: Found in glass and bathroom cleaners, ammonia can be very irritating to the eyes, skin, throat, and lungs.
Chlorine Bleach: A potent antimicrobial and respiratory irritant, bleach is a major ingredient in mildew removers, toilet bowl cleaners, and scouring powders. Mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia can create highly toxic chlorine gas, so consider using hydrogen peroxide as a safer bleach alternative
Sodium Hydroxide: A known mucous membrane irritant, this is used in many oven cleaners and drain openers.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): SLS is a detergent that creates the rich type of lather we’ve become accustomed to in cleansers, and is present in most shampoos and hand soaps. This ingredient can be very irritating to eyes, mouth, and skin.
Fragrance: Although the term “fragrance” sounds innocent enough, it can refer to any one of thousands of chemicals linked to skin, kidney, respiratory, and cellular issues.
Phthalates: Commonly found in a host of cleansing products including dish soaps, detergents, and shampoo, phthalates have been shown to negatively impact respiratory health and reproductive function, as well as cause DNA damage.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS): Found in antibacterial household cleaners, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. At least two studies identify QUATS as the cause of respiratory issues in cleaning workers.
Triclosan: This antimicrobial agent has been used in a wide range of products including dish liquid, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and even mops. In addition to impacting microbial balance and infiltrating living tissue, Triclosan can also lead to increased sensitivity to the environment as well as harmful cellular and endocrine changes. Thankfully, the FDA recently banned the use of Triclosan (and its close relative triclocarban) in hand and body soaps, but you’ll still need to be on the lookout for these toxic ingredients in other products.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Don’t let the word “organic” fool you! Inhaling these gases, which are frequently used in products including household cleaners, disinfectants, and air fresheners, can cause eye, liver, nervous system, respiratory tract, and skin troubles—as well as GI discomfort and challenges with equilibrium.