In today’s world, maintaining a clean and hygienic home has become more important than ever before due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, many of the cleaning products we use in our daily lives contain harmful chemicals that can have adverse effects on both our health and the environment. This article will discuss some of the most common chemicals found in household cleaners and their negative impacts on human health and the environment. By becoming aware of these harmful chemicals and making informed choices, we can take steps toward creating a cleaner and safer world for ourselves and future generations.
Harmful Chemicals in Household Products
Phthalates are commonly used as plasticizers in various products, including food containers, water bottles, and personal care items such as perfumes and lotions. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the body’s hormone systems. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to various health effects, including developmental and reproductive issues, such as congenital disabilities, reduced fertility, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, phthalates can have adverse environmental impacts, such as contaminating waterways and harming aquatic ecosystems. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021)
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is a common component of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins used in many products, including food containers and the lining of canned foods. Similar to phthalates, BPA is an endocrine disruptor that can interfere with hormone systems in humans and animals. Exposure to BPA has been linked to various health effects, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, BPA can leach into the environment and harm aquatic ecosystems. (Rochester, 2013)
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent in many personal care items, such as hand soap, toothpaste, and deodorant. It is an endocrine disruptor in animals and has been linked to developmental and reproductive issues. Moreover, triclosan can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a significant public health threat. Triclosan also threatens the environment, as it can accumulate in waterways and harm aquatic life. (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, n.d.)
Ammonia is common in household cleaners, particularly glass and surface cleaners. While ammonia is an effective cleaning agent, it can harm human health if inhaled or ingested. Exposure to ammonia can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system, and prolonged exposure can lead to lung damage. Furthermore, ammonia can contribute to air pollution and harm aquatic ecosystems if it enters waterways. (Government of Canada, N.d)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is a foaming agent commonly used in personal care items such as shampoo and body wash. While it is generally considered safe at low concentrations, exposure to high levels of SLS can lead to skin irritation and dryness. Additionally, SLS can harm aquatic ecosystems by polluting waterways and disrupting marine life. (Kumar & Sood, 2015).
PCE is a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning. It is a known carcinogen and has been linked to liver and kidney damage. PCE can also contaminate soil and groundwater, posing a human and environmental health risk. Exposure to PCE can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea, among other health effects. (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2014)
Chlorine is a widely used chemical for water treatment and disinfection. It is also used in household cleaners, bleaches, and swimming pools. When chlorine is used in water treatment, it reacts with organic matter to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) such as trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and human developmental issues. In addition, when chlorine is released into the environment, it can react with other chemicals to form new and potentially harmful compounds such as chloramines and chlorinated dioxins. These compounds can persist in the environment and cause harm to aquatic life and wildlife. (Parveen, Chowdhury, & Goel, 2021) or Parveen et al. (2021)
Formaldehyde is used to produce various building materials such as plywood, particleboard, and insulation. It is also used in personal care items such as nail polish and hair products. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and cancer (ATSDR, 2019). Formaldehyde can also have negative impacts on the environment. It can be released from building materials and industrial processes, contributing to air pollution. In addition, formaldehyde can leach into waterways from landfills, contaminating aquatic ecosystems and harming wildlife.
Now that you know the harmful chemicals found in everyday household products, it’s time to take action to protect your health and the environment. One simple step you can take is to read labels carefully and choose products that are free of harmful chemicals.
Additionally, we can support legislation and policies that aim to regulate the use of harmful chemicals in consumer products. By making our voices heard and advocating for safer, more sustainable practices, we can create a healthier environment for ourselves and future generations.
It is up to us as individuals to take action and make a difference. Let’s prioritize our health and the health of our planet by making informed choices and working together to create a cleaner, safer world.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Phthalates: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html
- Rochester, J. R. (2013). Bisphenol A and human health: A review of the literature. Reproductive Toxicology, 42, 132-155. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2013.08.008
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (n.d.). Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-triclosan
- Government of Canada. (n.d.). Ammonia. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/national-pollutant-release-inventory/tools-resources-data/ammonia.html
- National Library of Medicine. Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2014). Public Health Statement: Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene). Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=324&tid=57
- Parveen, N., Chowdhury, S., & Goel, S. (2021). Environmental impacts of the widespread use of chlorine-based disinfectants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering, 19(2), 1525-1536. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40201-021-00635-x
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2019). Formaldehyde Toxicity. Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts111.pdf
Protecting Your Family and the Planet: How to Identify and Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Household Products
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