Learn about the health risks of toxic cleaning products, and what you can do to make your cleaning routine safer.
Would you ever expect your cleaning products to cause skin damage? How about reproductive or behavioral problems? What about cancer?
By the time you are done reading this, the cleaning products under your sink are going to sound pretty scary. That’s because most conventional household cleaning products contain toxic ingredients that can be very harmful to your health.
Many of these health problems are particularly bad for women, people of color and low-income families – who more often do the household cleaning or clean houses or businesses for a living.
Health Risks from Toxic Cleaning Products*
It’s no fun to think about, but the cupboard under your kitchen or bathroom sink may be more like a toxic waste dump, than a magic toolkit for healthy cleaning. When you pull those toxic cleaning products out to use them, you may be doing more harm than good to the environment in your home.
Here are some of the known health risks from cleaning products:
Chemicals in cleaning products can cause skin rashes and eczema flareups, and lead to fits of sneezing and coughing. Studies have shown that 2-11% of the general population experience skin allergies to fragrance, which is very common in cleaning products.
Studies have shown a link between exposure to household cleaning products and the likelihood of asthma among children. People with asthma can be exceptionally sensitive to air contaminants, including those in ordinary cleaning products. Fragrance exposure has been shown to trigger asthma and COPD.
Toxic ingredients like lye, sulfuric acid and bleach, which are common in cleaning products, can cause burns to the skin, nose and eyes.
Many cleaning chemicals emit gasses called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), that can trigger migraine headaches in some people. In a national survey, over 34% of respondents in the U.S. reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, in response to exposure to fragranced products.
Accidental exposure or ingestion of harmful cleaning chemicals sends thousands of children to the hospital every year.
Various chemicals widely used in cleaning products are known reproductive toxins linked to reproductive harm, including decreases in fertility, birth defects, premature birth, accelerated puberty, low sperm counts and other effects.
Occupational studies have highlighted risks of solvent exposure for children born to women working with organic solvents during pregnancy. Some of the children in this category had reduced IQ and language skills, as well as vision abnormalities.
Some cleaning product ingredients have been directly linked to cancer and others create a carcinogenic compound when mixed. Other products contain preservatives that release low levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. Women who clean for a living have been shown to have twice the risk of getting lung cancer, compared to women in other professions.
How to Avoid Health Risks from Toxic Cleaning Products
So now that you know how harmful cleaning products can be, let’s talk about what you can do to make your cleaning routine much healthier!
1.) Avoid the worst cleaning products – the ones with the word DANGER or POISON on the label.
2.) Reduce or eliminate the use of fragranced cleaning products.
3.) Don’t shop for cleaning products at dollar stores and similar low-budget stores. The likelihood of harmful chemicals is higher in cheap products.
4.) Choose eco-friendly cleaning brands.
5.) Make your own DIY cleaning products if you are so inclined.
Have you ever experienced any adverse effects from toxic cleaning products?