We assume they are safe. But in fact, many popular household cleaners are dangerously toxic. Let’s look at four of the scariest substances lurking in your house, and how to replace them with safer, more natural options that really work.
Did you know that there’s no federal regulation of chemicals in household products? Rebecca Sutton, PhD, 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.”
Environmental experts state that the average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals. This means, the average person (including children!) are exposed to them routinely — from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners.
So what’s the big deal? Many ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. That’s a BIG DEAL!
So let’s just look at the top 4 offenders:
Found in: Many fragrance household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.
Although exposure to phthalates mainly occurs through inhalation, it can also happen through skin contact with scented soaps. Unlike the digestive system, the skin has no safeguards against toxins. Absorbed chemicals go straight to organs.
Healthier Choice: When possible choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic products. Forget about buying aerosol or plug-in air fresheners and instead diffuse essential oils or simply opening windows to freshen the air. Also consider adding more plants to your home: They’re natural air detoxifiers. Himalayan salt lamps also help to detoxify the air.
Found in: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”
Health Risks: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. The EPA is currently investigating whether triclosan may also disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function. It is a probable carcinogen.
Healthier Choice: Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists, and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. Use Thieves hand sanitizer products instead of typical “antibacterial” ones.
3. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”
Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”
Health Risks: Quats are another type of antimicrobial, and thus pose the same problem as triclosan by helping breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant.
Healthier Choice: You don’t really need fabric softener or dryer sheets to soften clothes or get rid of static. Instead, put a wet cloth with a few drops of lavender in the dryer cycle to make your clothes smell great!
Alternatives to chemical disinfectants abound, including antibacterial, antifungal Melaleuca essential oil. Mix a few drops of Melaleuca essential oil, or Purification essential oil, or Lemon essential oil, or Thieves essential oil and a bit of witch hazel with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.
Found in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.
Health Risks: 2-butoxyethanol is the key ingredient in many window cleaners and gives them their characteristic sweet smell. It belongs in the category of “glycol ethers,” a set of powerful solvents that don’t mess around. Law does not require 2-butoxyethanol to be listed on a product’s label.
Healthier Choice: You can also make your own formulas with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils. Use the Thieves cleaning line for all your household cleaning needs!