According to the U.S Poison Control Centers, “A child is accidentally poisoned every 30 seconds and more than 50% of all poisonings occur at home with children under 5 years of age.” But of course, you keep your cleaning supplies out of reach and only use baby products on your young children, and so your family is safe, right? But what's really in all those products, and what about the chemical residues that are left in your carpet, on your child's pajamas, in the very air your family breathes every day?
Because young children are smaller than adults, they are exposed to more contaminants per pound of body weight. Their little bodies and immune systems are not yet fully developed, and they are at a greater risk from the cumulative effect of chemicals that are found everywhere, from air freshener to laundry detergent.
I've listed below some commonly found ingredients and why you never want them in your home again. Note how many seemingly benign products, like deodorant and shower gel, contain these harmful ingredients. And remember, even though they may be in small amounts, you are putting these on your skin, in your hair, in your clothes and in your air every day, year after year after year.
Ammonia is fatal if swallowed. 80% of all manufactured ammonia is used as fertilizer. It is also used to manufacture synthetic fibers, plastics, and explosives, and it is added to many cleaning products, detergents, window cleaners, stain removers, bleaches, dyes, and floor waxes. Swallowing even small amounts of liquid ammonia in your household cleaner might cause severe burns in your mouth and throat. If you get it in your eyes it can lead to blindness. Ammonia is a corrosive substance that can burn skin, eyes, respiratory tract, mouth, and your digestive tract.
Ammonium hydroxide is a colorless liquid chemical solution that forms when ammonia dissolves in water. It can also release ammonia gas into the air.
It can be found in many industrial products and cleaners such as flooring strippers, brick cleaners, and cement. This chemical can cause breathing difficulty, coughing, severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue, esophagus, stomach, or throat, vision loss, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, severe change in pH (too much or too little acid in the blood, which leads to damage in all of the body organs), holes in skin tissue, and other symptoms.
This carcinogenic chemical can be absorbed through the skin and irritates mucous membranes. It is poisonous when ingested, and inhalation of the fumes may be toxic. It is cited by the EPA and OSHA as a threat to public health. This chemical is found in oven cleaners, detergents, furniture polishes, spot removers, and nail-polish removers.
Diseases associated with benzene include Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), Myelofibrosis and Myeloid Metaplasia, Aplastic Anemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Hairy Cell Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Thrombocytopenic Purpura, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Hematologic Cancers.
This widely used chemical is a suspected carcinogen and certainly a strong irritant, and it is responsible for many poisonings every year. The 1990 Clean Air Act lists it as a hazardous air pollutant… yet you breathe it in every time you use it in your laundry products or tub and tile cleaners. And air-borne residues remain in your toilet paper, paper napkins and paper towels.
Household bleach used to whiten fabrics or remove mold from surfaces, is a 5% solution of a stabilized form of chlorine. It is a strong corrosive that will irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It may cause pulmonary edema or vomiting and coma if ingested. Never mix bleach with toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia. The fumes could be DEADLY!
Formaldehyde is highly toxic and a known carcinogen. It is used in the manufacture of glues, and is also a preservative in deodorizers, disinfectants, cosmetics, vaccines and is used for embalming bodies. Formaldehyde is used in shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, liquid hand soap, and bubble bath. Products for children such as bubble bath and baby shampoo even have formaldehyde in them! Some health effects from exposure to formaldehyde include eye, nose, and throat irritation… wheezing and coughing… fatigue, skin rash, and severe allergic reactions. Formaldehyde is also used in permanent-press sheets, mattresses, foams, plastics, and building materials.
Glycol ether can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. It can also be hazardous to the reproductive system. This chemical can damage the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. It is quickly absorbed through the skin and is found in some household cleaning products, paints, cosmetics, and perfumes.
Also known as butyl cellosolve (2-butoxy-1-ethanol, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, butoxyethanol, and butyl oxitol).
Hydrochloric acid is a corrosive and eye and skin irritant. It can dissolve and destroy tender tissues upon direct contact. Eyes, nose, and throat are easily irritated by vapors. Contact can cause burning, permanent scarring, and even blindness. This chemical is found in aluminum cleaners and rust removers.
Kerosene (mineral spirits) is an eye and skin irritant and can damage lung tissues. It is neurotoxic. Kerosene may contain the carcinogen benzene. It is found in all-purpose cleaners, furniture polishes, and waxes.
Sodium hydroxide (also known as lye, caustic soda, and soda lye) is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It can burn eyes, skin and internal organs. Lye can cause lung damage, blindness and be fatal if swallowed. It is found in household cleaners, oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and drain openers.
Morpholine is extremely toxic. It is irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and may cause liver and kidney damage. It reacts with nitrites to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. It can also aggravate pulmonary/bronchial disease or cause breathing difficulty, burn the skin, cause blindness, cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This chemical is found in all-purpose cleaners, furniture polishes, and car waxes.
Naphthalene is irritating to the eyes and skin and can cause cataracts, corneal damage, and kidney damage. It is a suspected carcinogen. This chemical is extremely toxic to small children and infants and can cause blood damage to fetuses. This chemical is found in mothballs, air fresheners, deodorizers, carpet cleaners, and toilet-bowl cleaners.
Organic solvents (carbon disulfide, n-hexane, methyl n-butyl ketone, toluene trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene) are neurotoxins and central-nervous-system depressants. They are recognized as carcinogens. These chemicals are found in all-purpose cleaners, degreasers, metal polishes, varnish and lacquer removers, dry-cleaning solutions, paints and coatings, and adhesives.
Drinking water contaminated with perchloroethylene has leukemia and birth-defect implications. Long-term overexposure may affect the nervous system. This chemical is found in spot removers, degreasers, and dry-cleaning fluids.
Petroleum products (benzene, toluene xylene, benzene, naphthalene, and Stoddard solvent) are a powerful eye, skin, and respiratory irritants, and are either known or suspected carcinogens. Neurotoxic effects can lead to organic brain damage.
You are exposed to them in many common products including heavy-duty cleaners, stain removers, furniture polish, car wax, lice shampoo, home and garden pesticides, and flea-control products, furniture polish, and laundry products. Don't assume these products are safe just because they are not banned (yet).
Phenol (alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanol and nonyl phenoxy ethoxylate) is very toxic and is a suspected carcinogen. It can cause swelling, pimples, and hives. If swallowed, it can cause circulatory collapse, convulsions, cold sweats, coma, and death. This chemical is found in all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, disinfectants, furniture polish, and laundry detergents.
This corrosive chemical is damaging to eyes and skin, and to internal tissues if swallowed. It can cause asthma attacks. Found in toilet-bowl cleaners and deodorizers
Also known as ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic or diammonium, this chemical is found in laundry detergent and is a skin irritant. It also irritates mucous membranes, leading to allergies, asthma, and skin rashes. This chemical does not biodegrade. It binds with heavy metals in our lakes and streams, affecting our water supply.
Now that you are armed with some information, read the labels before you buy! Look for labels that say the product is phosphate-free (phosphates cause excessive growth in aquatic plants, leading to suffocation of fish and other aquatic life). Phosphates are found in laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and all-purpose cleaners. Look for products that specifically state “no phosphates”, “no solvents”, “petroleum-free”, etc. Better yet, look for products that contain only ingredients that are plant-based.
You can find healthy and natural alternatives, although it isn't always easy. There are lots of great links on our Organic Eden website, shown below. Look for the Natural Home and Personal Care tabs at the top of the homepage for information, tips, and links to all natural and safe products, where we've already done the research for you.
Be safe and healthy!