Remove Toxins

Cleaning house may be toxic to your health

Most people concerned with being healthy will intuitively know that many household cleaning supplies are suspect to be toxic. But it can be a chore to confront the process of finding out for sure and finding safe alternatives.

To make this easier on the consumer, one expert recommends that you avoid the following ingredients in your household supplies:

  • 2-butoxyethanol (or ethylene glycol monobutyl ether) and other glycol ethers: A widely-used cleaning solvent that causes anemia, creates air pollution, is linked to impaired fertility and reproductive and developmental toxicity, and which is a possible human carcinogen.
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates, which break down into alkylphenols:These are potent hormone disruptors and are widely detected in people and the environment.
  • Dye: These are mystery ingredients of unknown origin.
  • Ethanolamines: These can cause otherwise healthy people to develop asthma, and may be carcinogenic or neurotoxic.
  • Fragrances: These mystery mixtures are also among the top five allergens in the world.
  • Pine or citrus oil: Either of these can react with ozone in the air to form carcinogenic formaldehyde.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds: Any of these can cause otherwise healthy people to develop asthma.

As consumers demand more transparency in manufacturing, stores are now carrying more products with descriptive labeling of their ingredients. And if that fails, here's a way you can find out more about many of your household supplies without running out and getting that chemistry degree. The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) provides information on how you can contact the major cleaning supply manufacturers, via website or by phone. Products included in this lineup include air care (e.g., air fresheners), automotive care (e.g., antifreeze), cleaning (e.g., dish care, laundry detergents, household cleaning products), polishes and floor maintenance products (e.g., waxes, polishes).

To try out this investigative procedure, a product was chosen at random, a Glade brand air "freshener" that sprays scent into a house. The product is made by SC Johnson ,so the link on the SDA website was used to go to their product information pages. The SC Johnson site reports that Glade air freshener is made from isobutane, propane, ethanol and fragrance. (The website reports that more information will be forthcoming on fragrance components in the future.)

Isobutane, for example, is an irritant and fire hazard. If one's face remained close to the air freshener for awhile, for example if you were cleaning around the sprayer, coughing or lung irritation could occur. And then there is ethanol. Its Material Safety Data Sheet states: "Vapor harmful. Cannot be made nonpoisonous. Harmful if inhaled or absorbed through skin. Causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. May affect liver, blood, kidneys, gastrointestinal tracts and reproductive system."

If you have one of these automatic air fresheners, these are the substances that spray into your house on a regular basis (plus whatever the fragrance is made of when SC Johnson releases this information). If you simply enjoy fresh air, you avoid the risks associated with these chemicals.

And while it's no guarantee of purity, it is a step ahead to purchase cleaning supplies from health food stores or companies you know are dedicated to healthy lifestyles.

Source: Enviroblog, Could be hard to avoid these 7 cleaning ingredients, but you should try, March 23, 2010,

Source: Soap and Detergent Association Ingredient Central, April 3, 2010,

Source: SC Johnson product information, April 3, 2010,

Source: Vermont Safety Information Resources, Inc., Material Data Safety Sheet for Isobutane, April 3, 2010,

Source: Vermont Safety Information Resources, Inc., Material Data Safety Sheet for Ethanol, April 3, 2010,

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