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Recently, more media headlines have been gaining widespread attention about the potential toxicity of products on our overall health. The concerns raised about common household cleaning products specifically focus on the possibility of toxic ingredients: Some of these ingredients could potentially contribute to long-term health conditions such as cancer, allergies, reproductive disruption, asthma, neurotoxicity, and more. [1] When we use cleaning products in our homes, they can be absorbed through our skin and airways, which means it’s perfectly okay if you diligently study the label of those cleaning products! Staying informed and aware could ease the toxic load in the body. 

Ingredients to Be Aware Of in Household Cleaning Products

DEGBE

Also known as butoxydiglycol, DEGBE belongs to a group of solvents known as glycol ethers: These solvents can be found in some paints and cleaning products. The main concern is when people are exposed to high amounts of DEGBE, even if the exposure isn’t for very long. Exposure in large quantities could potentially be a factor in narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and/or kidney damage. In animal studies, there is a correlation between the inhalation of glycol ethers and the effect on reproductive and developmental health. [2]

DEGME

Also known as methoxydiglycol, DEGME is another glycol ether that has been identified by the United Nations Economic Commission as potentially harmful to a developing fetus inside the womb. Some popular brands of household cleaner made with DEGME may contain toxin levels that are 15 times higher than what is currently allowed in the European Union. [3]

Nonylphenol ethoxylates

This label refers to potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EMCs), which are banned from being used in any product in the European Union. Environmental studies of marine life discovered these chemicals could also be toxic to aquatic life, noting a more significant effect on the reproductive anatomy of fish. [4]

Quaternary ammonium

These compounds may exhibit anti-microbial and anti-static qualities, making them a popular choice for household cleaning products, disinfectants, and laundry products. However, these compounds may also be linked to asthmatic and reproductive concerns, with one study finding they can cause neural tube defects in rodents. [5]

Do Your Research

The ingredients listed above are just a small handful of potentially-hazardous toxins you may want to avoid. Many assume the risky chemicals would be listed on the product label, but it’s important to note there are few regulations in place requiring manufacturers of cleaning supplies to list ingredients.

Some cleaners contain over 100 ingredients, but the concern is that consumers don’t often see over 100 ingredients listed on the label. It’s also important to know that fragrance ingredients are not required to be identified. Generally, whenever the label includes words like  “fragrance” or “flavor,” these terms generally refer to potentially harmful fragrance-extending phthalates in the product. [6]

The Environmental Working Group has a robust online database that grades products from A to F based on many contributing factors regarding toxicity. Their database includes safety information for more than 2,500 products. [7] We encourage you to use this guide as one of your reference points when determining product safety. 

Possible Respiratory Health Risks

The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that daily use of certain cleaning products could affect a woman’s health in the same way that smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 10-20 years could. [8] Don’t assume that a product is safe because it’s labeled as “green” or “eco-friendly.” Some companies may use clever marketing tactics to cover up the use of potentially harmful chemicals in their products. Be sure to do your research first to find alternatives from companies that are transparent about the ingredients used in their cleaning products. 

The Hygiene Hypothesis: Can Anything be Too Clean?

In the quest to sanitize harmful germs, we could run the risk of possibly reducing some beneficial organisms designed to live in the digestive tract. If the GI tract lacks enough of this beneficial bacteria and gut flora, it could affect the body’s healthy metabolic and hormonal function: A reduction of beneficial bacteria may contribute to certain health concerns, including food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, digestive distress, and some nutrient deficiencies. [9]

This scientific theory is called the hygiene hypothesis. The theory also suggests that children could be developing more autoimmune and respiratory concerns because their environment tends to be sanitized of beneficial bacteria, which may support a healthy immune system. [9]

Household Cleaning Alternatives

If you’re willing to give natural ingredients a fair chance, keep these cleaning alternatives in mind:

  • Vinegar and water: Use a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar and store it in a spray bottle. You can use this on sinks, countertops, bathrooms, or anywhere you would use all-purpose cleaners. Vinegar cuts through grease more effectively than other cleaners, which makes it a great option to use in the kitchen. However, vinegar should be avoided on hardwood floors, natural stone, marble, or granite.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda is an effective cleaner and deodorizer. It pairs well with vinegar to clean and loosen plumbing clogs, mineral build-up, and water residues. It’s also mildly abrasive, so it might be an effective option for cleaning areas that need a little more scrubbing power.
  • Natural soap and water: Combine a few drops of natural soap with warm water for the original all-purpose cleaner! Use soap and water followed by a simple warm water rinse for mopping floors, cleaning countertops, wiping glass or mirrors, and washing vehicles.
  • Essential oils: Many essential oils may have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so they make wonderful additions to a natural cleaning cabinet. Lemon oil is excellent for removing adhesive residues and freshening sinks. Cinnamon bark and clove oil could be used as natural disinfectants. Citrus oils and eucalyptus can be natural air purifiers and fresheners when diffused.
  • Antibacterial cloths: Microfiber cloths may have antibacterial properties, likely due to the silver being woven throughout the fabric. Silver could be effective in preventing infection and cross-contamination in several germy locations. Use these cloths for wiping surfaces instead of rags or paper towels.

Get Support on Your Journey to Health

Don’t underestimate the power of natural cleaners to get the job done. There are many effective options that are likely safer and easier to use than chemical cleaners. By switching to non-toxic options, you could reduce your family’s toxic exposure – and possibly safeguard your health – while still maintaining a sparkling-clean home!

Find out what other toxins your body might be dealing with and whether they may be preventing you from fully restoring your health. Contact a Wellness Way clinic today to get comprehensive testing and personalized guidance.

References

  1. Volatile and Organic Compounds Emitted by Conventional and “Green” Cleaning Products in the U.S. Market | Environmental Working Group | Chemosphere Environmental Hazards Journal | PubMed (nih.gov).
  2. Glycol Ethers: (2-METHOXYETHANOL, 2-ETHOXYETHANOL, AND 2-
    BUTOXYETHANOL) | The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Management System | (epa.gov).
  3. The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning | Cleaning Supplies and Your Health | Environmental Working Group (ewg.org). 
  4. Effects of Waterborne Exposure to 4-Nonylphenol and Nonylphenol Ethoxylate on Secondary Sex Characteristics and Gonads of Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas) | Environmental Research, Volume 80 Issue 2 |Science Direct (sciencedirect.com). 
  5. Ambient and Dosed Exposure to Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants Causes Neural Tube Defects in Rodents | Birth Defects Research, Volume 109 Issue 14 | Wiley Periodicals (doi.org).
  6. Phthalates in Cosmetics | Regulated Products | Cosmetic Products and Ingredients | U.S. Food & Drug Administration
  7. The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning | Decoding Labels | Environmental Working Group (ewg.org). 
  8. Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction | American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine | American Thoracic Society | (doi.org).
  9. Is the Hygiene Hypothesis True? Did COVID Shutdowns Stunt Kids’ Immune Systems? | Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health | Johns Hopkins University | jhu.edu

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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