Household Chemicals to Avoid

Posted by: | Posted on: May 24, 2016
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Each year, Canadians spend over $ 275 million in household cleaning products. We buy these products to get rid of microbes, marks, stains and odors so that our homes are sparkling clean. Cleaning should aim to keep our homes healthy; however, some common household cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to human health and the environment. What a mess!

Acute And Chronic Effects

You are probably familiar with the hazard symbols that appear on some cleaning products accompanied by words such as “poison”, “corrosive” and “irritant”.

These hazard symbols warn consumers of the acute health risks, these being associated with a single exposure or short term chemical ingredients present in the product.

In Canada, there is however no similar requirement for manufacturers to warn consumers of the dangers to health and the environment associated with chronic exposure or long-term chemical ingredients used in the composition of household cleaning products. Most of us are daily exposed to small amounts of cleaning chemicals and their waste products.

cleaningWhen we use these chemicals to clean our homes, they are present in the air and we breathe them. US researchers have identified 133 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are emitted from a small sample of consumer products, including six maintenance products. Each product tested had between one and eight chemical substances deemed toxic or dangerous under U.S. federal legislation.

Chemicals found in cleaning products can also enter our body by being absorbed through the skin or ingesting house dust and chemical residue accumulated on dishes and utensils. And when maintenance products are in the sewers, they can cause serious impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

There is no regulatory requirement to inventory in a standardized manner the ingredients on the labels, so that it can be difficult to identify potentially hazardous chemicals. Here are some of the dangers that may lurk in your cabinets:

2 – Butoxyethanol (2-BE, also known as Butyl Cellosolve) – Irritant to the skin and eyes, this product is also associated with certain blood disorders. Laboratory experiments have shown that exposure to high doses of 2-butoxyethanol was causing problems related to reproduction. Due to its harmful effects to human health, this chemical is considered as toxic under the Canadian environmental protection act. Health Canada has determined that the air inside buildings and dermal contact were the two main routes of exposure to cleaning products. The regulations require that concentrations of 2 – BE are limited to 5 or 6 in most cleaning products, but higher levels are allowed in some other products, including stain removers for laundry (up to 22).

Found in: window cleaners, stain removers for laundry, carpet cleaners, cleaners for cars, windshield washer, degreasers, cleaners for cookers and rust removal products.

Ammonia – Vapors can irritate the eyes, skin, throat and lungs. People with asthma may be particularly sensitive to the effects of ammonia when inhaled. This substance can also cause damage to the kidneys and liver. Although ammonia exists naturally in the environment, the use of products containing this substance, in adding to natural sources, can lead to increased exposure to vapors. If ammonia is mixed with bleaching products containing chlorine (sodium hypochlorite), chloramine, a highly toxic gas, is formed.

Found in: cleaners for glass, lead-pipes, toilet cleaners, all-purpose cleaner for bathrooms, cleaners for ranges, stainless steel cleaners, polishes for cars and many other cleaning products.

Dyes/Tars – derivatives-based petrochemicals may contain trace amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. There are concerns that synthetic dyes may cause cancer, and that heavy metals could damage the nervous system and lead to other harmful effects on health. The dyes present in cleaning products can be absorbed through the skin or ingested in the case of SOAP on residue dishes. They contribute nothing to the cleaning of the product function.

Found in: most types of cleaning products.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds – Irritants and sensitizers able to induce an allergic response following skin contact. Quaternary ammonium compounds are also considered to trigger asthma in the workplace, and preliminary data indicate that they can induce harmful effects on genetics and reproduction. Chemicals that are part of this family are persistent in the environment and are toxic to aquatic organisms. Quaternary ammonium compounds are antimicrobial agents and there is concern that their widespread use in household disinfectants and cosmetics contributes to resistance to antibiotics in bacteria, which limits the possibilities of treatment in the case of microbial infections. The Canadian Medical Association requested that antibacterial household products are banned.

Found in: cleaning products for bathrooms, all-purpose cleaners, fabric softeners and degreasers.

Dichloroisocyanurate Sodium Dihydrate – corrosive; irritating eye, skin and respiratory tract. This product can also form chlorine gas, which burns the eyes, nose and mouth. Studies have shown that high doses of the chemical may cause damage to the kidneys. In its concentrated form, this chemical is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and may include long term effects within aquatic ecosystems.

Found in: toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, cleaners for surfaces and disinfectants.