Cleaning products that make our homes…toxic?
Toxic Cleaning Products and Our Bodies | Toxic Cleaning Products and Indoor Air | Toxic Products in Your House | Choose Non-Toxic Instead
Most home cleaning products on the market are polluting our homes, rather than ‘cleaning’ them.
For decades, the chemical industry in the US has gone virtually unregulated. Of the approximately 85,000 chemicals used in commerce, 20% are kept private as ‘trade secrets’, and only around 200 have ever been tested for human safety.
Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), explains, “In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.”
Because of the lack of oversight, companies have been allowed to use almost any chemical in their products without first proving its safety.
These cleaning products skate through to market, where consumers just like you and me unknowingly place them into our carts (whether digital or in stores) and then go on to fill our homes with endocrine-disrupting, environment-polluting, and respiratory system-compromising chemicals.
And we aren’t talking about those cleaning products we all know to be hazardous, like bleach or ammonia. We’re talking about the seemingly innocent everyday cleaners, like countertop sprays, dish soap, and laundry detergent!
Environmental experts estimate that the average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals. While manufacturers argue that we only exposed to these chemicals in small amounts, these ingredients aren’t likely to cause a problem. But because there is so little research, it’s impossible for these manufacturers to gauge the risks accurately.
What we do know is that many of the ingredients regularly included in household cleaners have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. We also know that chronic exposure to toxins adds to the body’s ‘toxic burden.’
These chemicals are ruining our air. Thanks to all the chemicals Americans are unknowingly bringing into their homes, indoor air can be up to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”
Since the average person spends approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, this is a significant cause for concern.
If we’ve got so many chemicals in our homes, we’d better get to know them, right? Let’s take a look at some of the most common harmful ingredients found in toxic cleaning products:
Bleach (sodium hypochlorite)
Bleach is caustic, even when it’s not in contact with the skin. It can cause eye and skin irritation, as well as trigger asthma and allergies. More concerning is that when bleach is mixed with ammonia or certain acids (such as those typically found in toilet bowl cleaners), it creates extremely toxic chloramine gas. Because we’re cleaning at only arm’s length, it’s easy to inhale and absorb into our bloodstream.
Commonly found in: conventional whitening laundry detergents, surface cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners. See our tips and favorite natural bleach alternative.
This known carcinogen is also identified as a universal sensitizer by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). This means that exposure to formaldehyde can increase sensitivity to all chemicals. Researchers are investigating the role of chemicals, such as formaldehyde, in immune function issues such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
Commonly found in: conventional laundry detergents, air fresheners
Though it appears as a single ingredient on labels, “fragrance” is actually a catch-all term used to represent a variety of chemicals. Companies are often allowed to hide these ingredients as ‘trade secrets’, using the excuse that listing the ingredients would give competitors the information needed to mimic their formulas. It’s not that we’re against secret recipes themselves (those snickerdoodle cookies grandma makes, for instance) if the ingredients used were naturally-derived and safe for humans (such as those we use). What we are against is the use of hiding harmful chemicals under a ‘trade secrets’ mask. Too often, ‘trade secrets’ are a cocktail of risky chemicals and preservatives that are linked to many health issues.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has stated that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic and harmful to human health. Many synthetic fragrances are also known to trigger allergies, dermatitis, respiratory issues, and hormone disruption.
Commonly found in: you’ll find this ‘ingredient’ in just about everything, from detergents and hand soaps to disinfectant wipes.
This chemical easily irritates the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Breathing even small amounts of ammonia vapors can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Also, as you’ll remember, mixing ammonia with other common household cleaners creates the highly poisonous chloramine gas.
Commonly found in: surface cleaners, window cleaners, floor waxes, and toilet bowl cleaners
Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs)
NPE’s are hazardous non-ionic surfactants. These quickly degrade into nonylphenols (NPs), which are endocrine disruptors that mimic the hormone estrogen. Studies have shown that NP can stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells and cause adverse reproductive effects in fish and other aquatic organisms. This isn’t something you want anywhere near your home or your family!
Commonly found in: conventional liquid laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers
Phthalates (pronounced THA-lātes) are well-known endocrine disruptors. Men with high phthalate compounds in their blood have correspondingly low sperm counts. Most exposure to phthalates is through inhalation, but you can also be exposed through skin contact. Unfortunately, our lungs and skin are some of our most absorbent organs, which means even a little exposure has a big impact.
Phthalates are used for their ability to dissolve and blend other materials. For this reason, you’ll find them in just about everything, and especially in synthetic fragrances.
Commonly found in: scented soaps, detergents, lubricating oils, personal care products, shampoos, soaps, perfumes, home fragrance sprays, much more.
Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent. Unfortunately, overuse of antibacterials and antimicrobials produce increasingly resistant microbes and bacteria. What’s more, The American Medical Association found no evidence that these antimicrobials actually make us healthier or safer — instead, they contribute to ‘superbugs’ that put our families and our environment at risk!
Over-exposure through repeated use has also shown a decrease in some thyroid hormone levels. The thyroid plays a primary role in our hormonal function and has a huge impact on both men and women. Studies have also shown dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers, lakes, and streams, where it disrupts hormones in local aquatic life.
As of December 2017, the FDA came out with new regulations. Companies must perform extensive studies to prove the necessity of triclosan in their products in order to be approved for market use.
Commonly found in: liquid dishwashing detergents and products labeled ‘antibacterial’
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
SLS and SLES are cheap foaming agents. Their purpose in products is to create high foam by breaking surface tension and separating molecules to create more suds. While their reputation as a likely carcinogen is currently under review, we do know that both SLS and SLES are skin irritants.
A report published by The American College of Toxicology (ACT) found that even relatively low concentrations, less than one-half percent, might result in damaging skin irritation. High concentrations cause severe irritation and even corrosion of the skin. The International Journal of Toxicology states that in order to be used safely, concentration levels should be no more than 1%.
Unfortunately, many of the cleaning products that we use regularly have levels of SLS as high as 20% or greater. These skin irritants may be contaminated with traces of 1,4-dioxane, a possible human carcinogen that is persistent in the environment.
Commonly found in: dish soap, liquid laundry detergents, cleaning towelettes, hand soaps, and toilet bowl cleaners
We hardly need to say it at this point — all these chemicals aren’t anything we want to invite into our homes. And unfortunately, it’s difficult to know if we’re accidentally bringing them in because of the lax ingredient labeling laws.
Consumer safety organizations, like the EWG have been fighting tirelessly for stricter standards for the chemical industry and greater consumer protection. In June 2016, The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was passed to close the loopholes that allowed the industry to go unregulated for so long. However, the protection offered by this new law may take years to trickle down into commerce and ensure our protection.
So, friends, it’s up to us to keep our own homes safe! And actually, it’s a lot easier than you’d think — all you need to do is swap out conventional cleaning products for non-toxic cleaning products that use natural ingredients and safe chemicals instead!
And the best news? There are safe, non-toxic products available that do an absolutely phenomenal job. Need proof? Try out any of our laundry care and household cleaning products to the test.
The Vision: Always Safe for People & the Planet
This simple act of switching to natural cleaning solutions, like our product line, will have a far greater impact than simply improving the health of our homes and families. As more consumers gain knowledge of the dangerous effects of toxic chemicals in household cleaners, more will begin to reject conventional cleaning products in favor of natural alternatives. Consumer dollars will make the most compelling argument for conventional companies to rethink their choice of ingredients, and, hopefully, shift the market to safer options.
But for now, you can rely on us (and many other like-minded natural brands) to be Always Safe for People & the Planet.
Be sure to check out our DIY page for natural alternatives to many household cleaners – we update it often! You can also join us in the fold by subscribing to our newsletter to get notified when new DIY’s are published, new products are released, sales on Molly’s Suds products, and more!