Do you know if your cleaning supplies have poisonous, asthmagenic, or cancer-causing ingredients in them?
Unfortunately, most consumers won’t know the answer to that question. Believe it or not, U.S. law does not require manufacturers to fully disclose what’s in their products. The Environmental Working Group claims that U.S. law “allows manufacturers of most cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development.”
We all talk about having a safer, healthier home, but as it turns out, many of us may be using toxic ingredients without even realizing it! The question is: Who can we trust?
Let’s back up for a second.
We all know that chemicals are dangerous. The Center for Disease Control advises about the risk of poisonings and long-term health effects that chemicals can have. 90% of poisonings that are reported originate from the home. In 2014, the U.S. poison control reported that the top two exposures leading to pediatric poisons were cosmetics (150,530 reported incidents) and cleaning supplies (118,207 reported incidents). The problem has only escalated with the modern introduction of detergent pods. In April 2016, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital reported that, in America, a call is made to a poison control center every 45 minutes due to child exposure to a laundry detergent packet.
What’s worse? The CDC publishes on their website that families should keep “toxic products, such as cleaning solutions and detergent pods, in their original packaging where children can’t see or get them.” (v) That frustrates me. That doesn’t seem like near enough. Because even if we buy childproof products, lock up our cabinets, and manage to keep our children away from the source, we’re still not doing them any favors by using these poisonous products in the first place. When we’re using those same off-limits, toxic chemicals to wash our clothes, clean our dishes, and care for our skin, they end up getting inhaled, ingested, and absorbed by our loved ones long after we put the product back on the shelf.
To prove the point, the EWG performed an investigation on 2,000 common American cleaning supplies. They discovered direct ties from these cleaning products to a variety of health issues:
- Fumes that induced asthma in otherwise healthy individuals.
- Chemical burns and poisonings.
- Severe irritations and allergies.
- Birth defects in children heavily exposed to cleaning supplies during pregnancy.
- Carcinogenic impurities.
Not only that, studies show that exposure to toxic chemicals in our everyday products, from cleaning to personal care, may contribute to learning disabilities or even disorders such as ADD/ADHD or autism. When toxins disrupt the neuro-endocrine system, even those who don’t have a family history of the disorder can demonstrate the same brain dysfunction. “During fetal development,” Larry Silver M.D. informs, “exposure to even minuscule amounts of toxins at critical junctures can have a lifelong impact on brain and physical health.” These cleaning products that our friends, families, and neighbors trust are directly triggering or creating health issues, yet we’re simply advised to hide the bottle after we use it.
Renée Sharp, the Director of Research at the EWG, knows and is frustrated by the conundrum. He states, “It’s important to keep your home clean, but in doing so you might be using products that contain chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks, allergic reactions, eye and skin irritation or that are known or probable human carcinogens.”
We need to find safer products. But how??
- Avoid products found on the EWG’s Hall of Shame.
- Don’t be fooled by large-scale marketing or unregulated claims.
- Look for a manufacturer that’s proud to tell you what is and isn’t in their products.
- Look for products that rely on plant-derived, biodegradable, natural solutions.
- Look for a company that doesn’t hide behind childproof caps or warning labels. That’s a company that puts your and your family’s wellbeing first.