Cleaning products


Cleaning products are one of the main ways in which toxic chemicals enter our homes. This is one problem which we could resolve quite easily as, after all, we choose the products we use in our own homes.

In many homes, it is common to use a wide range of very strong chemical cleaning products and we are spurred on by the idea that, in order to clean efficiently, you have to use very strong chemicals, as if you were sterilising an operating theatre. It’s a wonder we can breathe at all with all these products around us.

It does not seem particularly efficient if, when cleaning our homes to rid them of germs or grease, we are then dirtying them again with toxic chemicals, which can often affect our health. If we clean to try and make our home “healthy”, this is something we cannot overlook.

It is well known that intoxication by cleaning products is one of the main causes of accidents in the home which require emergency treatment. Although the labels on many of these products contain warnings regarding some of the more obvious risks, they do not give sufficient detail to some of the other risks which can affect many people.

According to many studies, one of the more obvious health effects of using certain cleaning products is the increased risk of suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems especially for those who work in the cleaning sector.

However, there are other health issues which can be caused or exacerbated by these chemicals. By reviewing many different chemicals that these products contain and the effects they can cause according to scientific studies, this can be better explained. These types of effects include: carcinogenic, irritant, neurotoxic, sensitizer, hormone altering, congenital etc.

Have you ever stopped to consider how many chemicals and what types of substances we are allowing into our homes through floor cleaners, window cleaning products, furniture polish, multi-purpose cleaners, degreasers, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners, stain removers, drain cleaners etc.?

The INSHT in their Prevention Factsheets (NTP 521) have warned us about the emission of toxic chemicals from our cleaning products.

Although the list of dangerous chemicals in these factsheets is not at all exhausted, it does give us an idea of the worrying mixture of chemicals that cleaning products can deposit in an enclosed space. It shows, for example, that soaps and detergents can emit alkyl aryl ether sulphates, alcohol sulphonates, alkyl phenol polyglycol ether, poletylenglycol alkyl aryl ether, alcohols, alkyl sodium isocyanates and formaldehyde. Multi-purpose cleaners (combined detergents, anti-grease agents, solvents and disinfectants): ammonia, monobutyl etylenglycol acetate, sodium hypochlorite etc. Disinfectants: phenol, cresol, sodium hypochlorite, quartenary ammonium, ammonia, formaldehyde etc. Window cleaning products: ammonium hydroxide, ammonia, isopropanol etc. Stain removers and fabric cleaners: tetrachloroethylene, methanol, solvents from petrol, benzene, trichloroethylene etc. Grease removers: carbon tetrachloride, toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene, monobutyl etylenglycol acetate, monobutyl etylenglycol ether etc. Furniture polishes: ammonia, naphtha, nitrobenzene, distilled petrol, phenol etc. Floor polishes may emit nitrobenzene. Aerosols: propane, nitrous oxide, metylene chloride etc.

A lot of people do not realize that using cleaning products can cause significant changes in the chemical make-up of the air we breathe in our homes. For instance, studies have shown that terpenes, found in a large number of cleaning products, can react with the ozone inside the home causing sharp increases in the concentration of formaldehyde.

Some results have also shown that there can be high exposures to chemicals such as 2-butoxyethanol (a glycol ether) from the cleaning of baths or windows in a poorly ventilated area.

Using this website, you can look into the results of scientific studies about the effects of the chemicals that cleaning products introduce into our homes such as formaldehyde, toluene, styrene, xylene, methylene chloride, diethanolamine, nonylphenol, glycol ethers, phthalates etc.

As well as this, there can be indirect effects on our health such as the effects of an excessively sterilised environment on our immune system. This is what is known as the “hygiene theory” which partly explains the rapid rise in allergies.



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