Do you know what is in your cleaning products?
A recent study carried out by the University of Bergen has claimed regularly using traditional cleaning sprays could have the same negative impact on your lungs as smoking a pack of twenty cigarettes a day. But what exactly makes traditional household cleaners so harmful to the user? In this article we will look at some of the most common nasties found in the mainstream cleaning products.
Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives used in a variety of applications around the home including; cosmetics, personal hygiene products, and household cleaners. They have been used for decades to effectively preserve the life of products by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and microbes. However, in recent years academic studies have suggested that parabens could be linked to breast cancer, with traces of parabens have been found in the tissue of breast tumours. Although whether parabens directly contribute to causing cancer is disputed these studies have led to widespread avoidance of parabens by consumers who would rather be ‘safe than sorry’.
Used as binders or plasticisers in a wide range of household products, such as air fresheners, washing up liquids, soaps, and general purpose cleaning products. A study carried out by the US Center for Disease Control and the Harvard School of Public Health in 2003 found that phthalates acted as endocrine (glands that secrete hormones) disruptors, men with higher levels of phthalates in their blood had correspondingly lower sperm counts. Subsequent studies into the harmful effects of phthalates have linked them to; asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and autism. As a result major efforts have been made at governmental level to prohibit the use of the most harmful phthalates in consumer products.
A key component in most household bleaches (sodium hypochlorite) and some of the more heavy-duty household cleaning sprays. Exposure to relatively low levels of chlorine can cause issues with breathing, irritation to the eyes and skin, nausea and dizziness. If mixed with certain other cleaning products, household bleach can emit toxic chlorine gas. It is important to be careful about which products you use with household bleach and always use in a well-ventilated area. Most eco/green cleaning sprays don’t use any bleach based ingredients in their formulations.
Glycol Ethers (2-Methoxyethanol, 2-Ethoxyethanol, 2-Butoxyethanol)
Glycol ethers refers to a group of around 30 chemical solvents that are used as cleaning agents in a variety of general purpose cleaning sprays. Derived from crude oil, glycol ethers are used as powerful degreasers in many kitchen, multi-purpose, and window cleaners. Glycol Ethers are particularly hazardous to human health when inhaled or brought into contact with the skin. For example when used to clean in an inadequately ventilated room. Glycol ethers in cleaning products cause sore throats, asthma, irritation to the eyes and skin. To combat these harmful effects some companies have moved to plant based alternatives to Glycol Ethers.
Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA)
These alcohols are present in hard surface cleaners, laundry detergents, washing up liquids, and floor cleaners. MEA and DEA are both carcinogenic, with research showing that they disrupt hormones and form cancer-causing nitrates in the body. DEA is an irritant to skin and eyes whilst MEA is known to induce asthma and breathing difficulties.