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Clean, But Risky

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— February 15, 2017

Clean, But Risky

  • There are a lot of words to describe our obsession with cleanliness: We scour, scrub, wash, cleanse, wipe and disinfect. Problem is, the conventional cleaning products we use to get our bodies and homes clean as a whistle are best described as toxic. Here are some of the health risks involved in everyday cleaning routines.
  • By: Jodi Helmer
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Clean, But Risky

When Cleaning YOUR BODY

Soap: Propylene glycol absorbs water. In soap, it’s used to help skin absorb moisture— and is a common ingredient in moisturizing soaps—but the chemical compound is also used as antifreeze. In addition to causing skin and eye irritation, there are concerns that it could impact the organs. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) create foam. There is significant data linking both surfactants to skin and eye irritation; the International Agency for Research on Cancer noted that ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which can contaminate SLS during the manufacturing process, are possible carcinogens.

Shampoo: Propylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and other ingredients ending in –paraben are preservatives that prevent bacterial growth. Parabens are endocrine disruptors that can interfere with the hormones in your body, specifically estrogen. Although research shows tenuous links between breast cancer and parabens, the preservatives have been found in breast tumors so experts advise caution. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT) are preservatives used to inhibit bacterial growth. In animal studies, exposure to MIT and CMIT was linked to significant weight gain, lung irritation, and swollen intestines. Both are also known skin irritants: The American Contact Dermatitis Society named MIT Allergen of the Year in 2013 because of its negative impact on the skin.

Toothpaste: Triclosan inhibits the growth of bacteria; research has shown that toothpaste with triclosan helped prevent gingivitis. Studies show that exposure to high doses of the ingredient could decrease levels of certain thyroid hormones and possible links to cancer. In January, Minnesota became the first state to ban the sale of products containing triclosan.

Sodium fluoride is used to prevent cavities by strengthening teeth and making them more resistant to decay. Fluoride is absorbed into the blood and tends to collect in areas high in calcium, including bones and teeth. Some studies have found a link between fluoride and bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Since toothpaste should not be swallowed, there is an ongoing debate about the risk of fluoride.

When Cleaning YOUR HOUSE

Glass cleaner: Isopropanolamine is a colorless liquid with a strong odor that helps dissolve residue. In addition to being flammable, inhaling the chemical can cause a sore throat, coughing, and shortness of breath. If isopropanolamine comes in contact with the skin, it can cause redness, blisters and skin burns; it can also cause loss of vision if it gets into your eyes. Ammonia removes dirt and grease. Its odor is strong and inhaling it can lead to cough, sore throat and shortness of breath; ammonia has also been linked to asthma attacks. It’s also corrosive and can cause skin burns, blisters and pain in high concentrations on the skin.

Laundry detergent: 2-Butoxyethanol is used in liquid laundry detergent; it may be abbreviated as BEA or EGBEA on labels. The toxin can enter your bloodstream when your skin comes in contact with laundry detergent. Animal studies have linked exposure to 2-Butoxyethanol with the destruction of red blood cells, breathing problems, inflamed intestines, liver and kidney issues, and reproductive and birth defects. Fragrance is used as an umbrella term to include unnamed ingredients that are protected as trade secrets, which means there is no way to know what possible synthetic chemicals a scented product may include. Detergents containing fragrance have been linked to respiratory distress, skin irritation and neurological issues like migraines, dizziness, and nausea.

Oven cleaner: Ethanolamine is a cleaning agent that dissolves grease. It’s a harsh chemical with a strong odor that has been linked to allergies, respiratory distress (including asthma attacks) and skin irritation. In animal studies, exposure caused vomiting, dizziness and difficulty breathing. If ethanolamine comes in contact with your skin, it can cause severe burns. Butoxydiglycol dissolves oil and grease. It’s produced by the reaction of two ethylene oxide molecules. Research has linked the cleaning agent to asthma and allergies and skin irritation. Ethylene oxide, a key ingredient in antifreeze, has also been linked to lymphoma and leukemia as well as to the increased risk of infertility and miscarriage.

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