A Clean Sweep On Toxins In The Home - 5 Most Toxic Ingredients To Steer Clear Of
We live in a toxic world. This fact is undeniable given our exposure to hundreds of chemicals on a daily basis through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use, and even the objects within our homes. The cumulative effect from continuous exposure to these ubiquitous toxins directly influences our health and contributes to the development of several health concerns including cancer, infertility, thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, asthma, mood disorders, neurological disease, and obesity.
To completely avoid every single toxin would be an impossible task in this day and age, however that doesn’t mean you can’t take measures to significantly reduce your exposure and the overall toxic burden on your body. Remember, you have the power to control what goes on, in, and around your body to a great extent. In this article we will focus on one of the most common sources of toxic chemicals that you have full control over in your home – household cleaning products.
At Health Over All we are committed to providing our clients with an environment that is as non-toxic as possible. In our clinic we make a conscious effort to minimize toxic exposure and offer a space that is conducive to healing. We regularly use cleaning products that are devoid of the chemicals known to negatively influence our health and the environment because we feel that any attempt to reduce exposure (big or small) will make a difference.
Did you know that despite the push for change, household cleaning manufacturers in Canada are not legally required to fully disclose all ingredients contained within their products, nor are they obliged to state any possible chronic health risks associated with their use? This means that chemicals that are potentially harmful can be added into these products and go unnoticed by the consumer. When released they are inhaled by the lungs, absorbed into the skin, and ingested through the mouth when residues that adhere to surfaces such as dishware are consumed. With routine exposure the chemicals accumulate in the body and disrupt the normal functioning of our cellular processes, which can lead to dysfunction of multiple organ systems.
So exactly what kinds of chemicals are slipping under your radar and making their way into your home? Below we have listed the 5 most common toxic household cleaning chemicals to steer clear of.
1. Phthalates. Whenever you see the word “fragrance” on a label you can pretty much assume that phthalates are present. Found mainly in plastic and scented detergents, soaps, and cleaners, phthalates are a group of chemicals known for their ability to disrupt hormonal function in the human body.
2. Triclosan. This agent is found in a number of disinfectants, dish soaps, and detergents that are marketed as “antibacterial”. This property alone contributes to development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is a major problem that stems from the over and unnecessary use of antimicrobial agents such as these. It is a suspected carcinogen, is toxic to wildlife, and has also been found to interfere with normal heart and thyroid function.
3. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds. Quaternary ammonium compounds, aka “Quats”, are similar to triclosan in that they are also antibacterial and thus promote antibiotic resistance. These chemicals are specifically found in bathroom cleaning products and multi-purpose cleaners that are branded as “antibacterial”. Regular exposure to these compounds has been linked to asthma, contact dermatitis, and infertility due to reproductive toxicity.
4. 2-Butoxyethanol. This extremely harmful chemical is commonly found in glass, carpet, kitchen, and multi-purpose cleaners and is known to cause a variety of blood, lung, liver and kidney diseases. It is regarded as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and can only be used at a certain concentration in commercial products.
5. Nonylphenol Ethoxylates. NPEs are mainly found in toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers, laundry detergents, and all-purpose cleaners. They are estrogen mimetic, meaning that they can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and pass as estrogen because their molecular structures are very similar. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act considers them to be toxins and has urged cleaning product manufactures to refrain from using them, although it is not enforced.
You are probably thinking that if household cleaning product companies aren’t required by law to disclose all of their ingredients on the label, how do you know which products are safe to choose? That is the tricky part. Even if a product is marketed as “green” it doesn’t mean that it is without harmful ingredients. The best way to know is through the use of resources such as the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners) or the Think Dirty App (http://www.thinkdirtyapp.com), which provide detailed safety ratings for thousands of products that are based off of their own analysis. Find a brand you trust, always read labels, and continue to educate yourself so that you can make informed decisions about the products that enter your home.
Dr. Jessica Geil, HBSc, ND
David Suzuki Foundation. 2014. The dirt on toxic chemicals in household cleaning products. [accessed 2016 Aug 20]. Available from: http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/the-dirt-on-toxic-chemicals-in-household-cleaning-products/
Environmental Working Group. 2016 Apr 6. Spring 2016 Update. [accessed 2016 Aug 20]. Available from: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
Environmental Working Group. 2016 Apr 6. Cleaning Supplies And Your Health. [accessed 2016 Aug 20]. Available from: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/cleaners_and_health