Are Toxic Cleaning Chemicals Killing You
The methods that we use to clean and sanitizing our homes, workplaces, and bodies to get rid of the germs that cross our paths has led to toxic antimicrobial cleaning products lining the shelves in almost every store.
Many cleaning products and household products can irritate the eyes or lungs, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer and lung problems. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other harmful ingredients include ammonia and bleach. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term detrimental health effects. The concentrations of many VOCs are higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide variety of products numbering in the thousands.
Using antimicrobial products may sound like a good plan when wanting to get rid of germs that could make us sick. Before you buy another bottle of toxic industrial strength cleaner, please understand how it is negatively affecting your health.
Detrimental Chemical Cleaning Products and Your Lungs
Many people have developed a beneficial association with the fragrance that everyday household cleaning products leave behind. But the truth is that breathing in these toxic chemicals over time might make it a lot more difficult for you to breathe at all.
Recently Scientist in Norway released a 20-year study of more than 6,000 participants that revealed a clear link between toxic cleaning product use and the risk of developing lung problems. The more often women cleaned, researchers discovered, the more serious the effects to their lungs. Women who worked as cleaners suffered the most, inducing as much lung damage as would be expected in a person smoking 20 cigarettes every day.
Researchers believe that the cause of lung damage is likely due to cleaning chemicals aggravating mucus membranes in the airways, which with repeated exposure resulted in lasting negative changes to the airways themselves. Interestingly, no men in the study seemed to be affected. This may be because fewer men than women work as professional cleaners, and those who do may be exposed to different levels of chemicals than women who clean for a living.
Unfortunately, toxic cleaning products aren’t just tough on your respiratory function—they are toxic to other parts of your body and destroy your microbiome.
The Toxic Effects That Chemicals Have On Your Microbiome
Many of the chemical ingredients in today’s cleaning products were put there for their germ killing properties. The trouble with this tactic is that these chemicals aren’t selective—they kill probiotic organisms along with the types of bacteria that are unwanted. Some of these ingredients, such as parabens, ammonia, chlorine bleach, Triclosan, are absorbed through the skin in varying degrees—and once inside your body, they may upset your microbial balance.
Triclosan and triclocarban can turn up in human blood, mucus, and even breast milk—and they’re so common that the estimated odds are about 40% that they are also in your body.
These dangerous ingredients can get into breast milk also: one study found that the gut flora of nursing moms and babies were affected by Triclosan exposure. It's important to protect ourselves by being mindful of not only what goes into our mouths, but also what we interact with in our environment and what we put onto our skin, hair and nails.
Toxic chemicals can also find their way into soil, air, and water, and animal studies highlight the damages for our planet’s wildlife.
Antimicrobial Cleaners and Superbugs
The root of physical and mental wellness lies in a balanced gut, it’s bad enough that toxic cleaning products can cause damage with microbial health. Unfortunately, the effect of this type of microbial conflict goes much further. That’s because they are so effective that, when you use these cleaners, you aren’t actually killing every single living organism. And the microbial species that do survive your chemical attack are the tiny microbes that are resistant to antibiotics and antimicrobials.
In a balanced environment, friendly gut flora crowd out the bulk of microbial troublemakers, and the percentage of resistant undesirable microbes are too minimal to do harm. But when antimicrobials are present, resistant bacteria gain a real advantage. As their neighbors die off, these “superbugs” that are especially difficult to kill have plenty of room to reproduce—and when their numbers grow large enough to impact your health, medications such as antibiotics may prove completely ineffective.
Cleaning product labels can be misleading, and many cleansers labeled “natural” are everything but. To protect yourself, your family, your clients and our beautiful planet, here are a few of the most commonly used harmful chemicals to avoid:
• 2-Butoxyethanol: 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.
• Parabens: These antimicrobial, chemical preservatives are associated with negative effects in breasts, hormones, and reproductive areas.
• 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.
There’s a environmentally friendly Way to Clean
Despite what advertisements may be telling you, you don’t have to rely on toxic products to keep your home and body clean. Rely on natural products instead, starting with a basic product such as liquid Castile soap mixed with plain water, works great as a hand soap, shampoo, and dishwashing liquid. You can combine this with other natural ingredients such as baking soda, sea salt, essential oils, or vinegar, you can also make your natural and effective safe laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner, and even glass cleaner.
When purchasing pure Castile soap, look for an authentic product made using nothing but pure, saponified olive oil. For a sparkling clean home, you’ll also want to have other potent natural cleansers on hand, like lemon juice and borax.
If doing it yourself feels overly complicated, you can still find prepared household products that contain certified natural ingredients that work in harmony with the microbial environment to clean your home safely, without toxicity..
Our cleaning choices may feel unimportant, but making the choice to use only eco friendly cleaning products truly makes a difference on both a small and planetary scale. Although toxic products are still being widely used, discontinuing the use of them will extremely reduce your personal exposure, as well as your family’s.
Heres a list of Natural cleaning brands:
2. Mrs. Meyers
4. Seventh Generation
5. JR Watkins
6. Common Good
1. Svanes, Ø., Bertelsen, R. J., Lygre, S. H., Carsin, A. E., Antó, J. M., Forsberg, B., … Svanes, C. (2018). Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. doi:10.1164/rccm.201706-1311oc
2. Syed, A. K., Ghosh, S., Love, N. G., & Boles, B. R. (2014). Triclosan Promotes Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Colonization. MBio, 5(2).
3. Kennedy, R.C. (2012, June). Triclocarban (TCC) Exposure in Pregnancy and during the Female Neonate Period Compromises Lactation and Reproductive Development. Paper presented at the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting and Expo, Houston, TX.
4. Gaulke, C. A., Barton, C. L., Proffitt, S., Tanguay, R. L., & Sharpton, T. J. (2016). Triclosan Exposure Is Associated with Rapid Restructuring of the Microbiome in Adult Zebrafish. PLOS ONE, 11(5), e0154632. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154632
5. Kennedy, R., Fling, R., Robeson, M., Saxton, A., Bemis, D., Liu, J., … Zhao, L. (2016, April 1). Trichlorocarbanilide Exposure Induces Gut Microbial Dysbiosis in Neonatal Rats. Retrieved from https://endo.confex.com/endo/2016endo/webprogram/Paper24976.html
6. Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern. (2001). Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7(7), 512-515. doi:10.3201/eid0707.017705
7. Babich, H. (1997). Sodium lauryl sulfate and triclosan: in vitro cytotoxicity studies with gingival cells. Toxicology Letters, 91(3), 189-196. doi:10.1016/s0378-4274(97)00022-2
8. Lee, C. H., Kim, H. W., Han, H. J., & Park, C. W. (2004). A Comparison Study of Nonanoic Acid and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in Skin Irritation. Exogenous Dermatology, 3(1), 19-25. doi:10.1159/000084139
9. Steinemann, A. (2017). Fragranced consumer products: effects on asthmatics. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 11(1), 3-9. doi:10.1007/s11869-017-0536-2
10. Pan, S., Yuan, C., Tagmount, A., Rudel, R. A., Ackerman, J. M., Yaswen, P., … Leitman, D. C. (2015). Parabens and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Ligand Cross-Talk in Breast Cancer Cells. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(5). doi:10.1289/ehp.1409200
11. Kolatorova, L., Vitku J., Hampl R., Adamcova K., Skodova T., Simkova M., Parizek A., Starka L., Duskova M. (2018). Exposure to bisphenols and parabens during pregnancy and relations to steroid changes. Environmental Research, 163, 115-122. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.031
12. Environmental Health Perspectives. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov
13. Environmental Health Perspectives – Asthma in Inner-City Children at 5–11 Years of Age and Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Cohort. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307670/
14. Hauser, R., & Calafat, A. (2005). PHTHALATES AND HUMAN HEALTH. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 62(11), 806-818. doi:10.1136/oem.2004.017590
15. Duty, S. M., Singh, N. P., Silva, M. J., Barr, D. B., Brock, J. W., Ryan, L., … Hauser, R. (2002). The Relationship between Environmental Exposures to Phthalates and DNA Damage in Human Sperm Using the Neutral Comet Assay. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(9), 1164-1169. doi:10.1289/ehp.5756
16. A. Purohit, A. et al. (2000). Quaternary ammonium compounds and occupational asthma. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, August 2000, vol. 73, no. 6:, 423-27.
17. J.A. Bernstein, J. A. et al. (1994). A combined respiratory and cutaneous hypersensitivity syndrome induced by work exposure to quaternary amines. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, August 1994, vol. 94, no. 2, Part 1, 257-59.
18. Bertelsen, R. J., Longnecker, M. P., Lovik, M., Carlsen, K., London, S., & Carlsen, K. C. (2012). Triclosan Exposure And Allergic Sensitization In Norwegian Children. D33. ASTHMA PATHOGENESIS. doi:10.1164/ajrccm-conference.2012.185.1_meetingabstracts.a5663
19. James, M. O., Li, W., Summerlot, D. P., Rowland-Faux, L., & Wood, C. E. (2010). Triclosan is a potent inhibitor of estradiol and estrone sulfonation in sheep placenta. Environment International, 36(8), 942-949. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2009.02.004
20. McMurry, L. M., Oethinger, M., & Levy, S. B. (1998). Triclosan targets lipid synthesis. Nature, 394(6693), 531-532. doi:10.1038/28970
21. Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality | US EPA. (2017, November 6). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality