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8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid

This is a topic I’m passionate about because it’s one of the most widely ignored areas of health problems that could easily be fixed. The mass majority are living in a giant chemical soup in their own homes. So, make a cup of tea or whatever healthy beverage you enjoy and we’ll take a deep dive into learning some new vocabulary words. 

According to the environmental protection agency (EPA), there are at least 62 toxic chemicals lingering in the average household. They can be found in products like paints, cosmetics, scented toilet paper, nail polish and cleaning agents. Toxic chemicals in our own home can lead to adverse health effects such as asthma, cancer, neurotoxicity, allergic reactions, reproductive disorders, and hormone disruption among others. 

If you think the only way to get your home sweet home spic and span is using harsh chemical laden products, think again. They do more harm than good. From the outside, you might see their effectiveness when it comes to cleaning, but you’re putting your health at risk. My go to place for buying good for the environment products and organic food is Thrivemarket.com. Similar to Amazon prime, you’ll need to purchase a membership to have access to all their great discounts.  

The following are several commonly used chemicals to avoid: 

  1. Phthalates: Phthalates are regularly found in fragranced cosmetics & personal care products and nail polish in the United States. They’re currently found in PVC children’s toys, backpacks, air fresheners, food packaging like cling wrap, medical devices, building materials such as water pipes, vinyl flooring, mosquito repellant and adhesives. Phthalates are not typically listed on ingredient labels because “fragrances” are considered to be trade secrets. Phthalates in cosmetics are banned in Europe but unfortunately remain in use in the United States.   They are known carcinogens because they disrupt the endocrine system, damage and reduce sperm count and reproductive functioning, and are skin and respiratory irritants. Instead, you’re best off choosing fragrance-free organic products or essential oils. 

2. Perchloroethylene (PERC): PERC is a colorless, non-combustible, volatile organic compound (VOC) typically found in liquid form. The compound turns into vapors at room temperature. This chemical is often found in aerosol paint concentrates, oven cleaners, laundry aids, and dry-cleaning solutions, typewriter correction fluid, shoe polish and wood cleaner. It is hazardous because of its classification as a neurotoxin and a possible carcinogen, with the most serious effects emanating from its inhalation. To avoid the problems associated with the presence of PERC in household chemicals, some of the viable alternatives would include liquid carbon dioxide or household cleaners made from all-natural organic ingredients. A simple oven cleaning hack is to use baking soda and water to clean your oven. 

3. Triclosan: This is commonly found in products labeled as antibacterial, including dishwashing soaps, body soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, deodorants, and different products for personal care. The absorption of triclosan, which commonly happens through skin contact or contact from the lining of the mouth, can affect muscle function, hormone regulation, and can trigger allergic reactions. According to experts, avoiding the said health risks can be possible by choosing soaps with a simpler list of ingredients or those that are all-natural.  I’m a huge fan of Dr. Bronner’s for face and body washing. It’s a pure product. If you’re into DIY, you can do a search on making your own products like deodorant.  I’ve experimented with making my own which has turned out great! Also, stay away from body care products that say “anti-perspirant” because the main ingredient is aluminum which is linked to breast cancer and highly carcinogenic. Aluminum is also in tin-foil and many cook ware products. I’ll do a separate blog post on what pots and pans to use for safe cooking. 

4. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS): QUATS chemicals that are commonly used in fabric softeners, hair conditioners, shampoos and body lotions. In hair care they, create a slippery feel to hair and skin. They also have anti-microbial properties. Exposure to QUATS can cause contact dermatitis, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Some forms of QUAT compounds like benzalkonium chloride are phenolic (volatile chemical compounds) and are endocrine disruptors (interfere with hormone function). They also harm aquatic life so they should not be flushed into the water system. 

5. 2-Butoxyethanol: This chemical is a clear, colorless and flammable solvent. Solvents soften and disperse soils to lessen the amount of effort you have to use. 2-butoxyethanol can be found in floor strippers, surface cleaners, spot cleaners, window cleaners, ink removers, and other multipurpose cleaners. The high level of glycol ether in products containing this chemical has been linked to kidney and liver damage, asthma, nausea, tremor, anemia, pulmonary edema, and narcosis, among others. For an incredibly simple, effective and super safe cleaning product go the website www.forceofnature.com 

6. Ammonia: This chemical has a very pungent odor and can be commonly found in polishing waxes, bathroom cleaners, jewelry cleaners, and other multipurpose cleaners. The risk from this chemical occurs when people are exposed to high concentrations which can lead to allergy, asthma, and other breathing problems. A great alternative to products containing ammonia would be vodka or natural toothpaste, which are natural cleaners. 

7. Chlorine: Some of the household items containing chlorine include toilet bowl cleaners, scouring powders, laundry whiteners, mildew removers, and even tap water. Exposure to chlorine can commonly lead to respiratory and thyroid problems. In the case of the thyroid, chlorine robs our cells of iodine (I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein’s book on Iodine - “Why You Need It And Can’t Live Without it”). It’s best to avoid swimming in pools unless they are salt water based. To prevent its health risks, experts recommend the use of natural cleaners, such as vinegar, borax powder, and using filters to remove chlorine concentration in water. I use a counter top water filtration system called Aquatrue which removes chlorine and fluoride. 

8. Sodium Hydroxide: Sodium hydroxide is an odorless, white crystalline solid that absorbs moisture from the air. Drain cleaners and oven cleaners are two of the most common items in the household containing sodium hydroxide. As the chemical is known for being extremely corrosive, it can be damaging for the skin and can cause a sore throat when it is inhaled. Rather than using a cleaning product that contains sodium hydroxide, use baking soda mixed with a little water to make a paste as a natural alternative.

Once you go green and ditch all the chemical laden cleaning products, you will be making a positive long-term investment in yours and your family’s health. 

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