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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?

Oct 02, 2009 02:56PM


by Penny Dietz

Today's commercial cleaning products are cleverly marketed to make cleaning your house look quick and easy. However, they are often loaded with toxic and polluting substances that can be harmful to you and your children. It's important to understand that many of the chemicals in household cleaning products and pesticides have not been adequately tested, regulated or controlled. And if you notice, most ingredients are absent from labels while precautionary and hazardous are more abundant.

The fact of the matter is there are no governmental regulations requiring the ingredients to be listed on cleaning products. According to the Soap and Detergent Association, only the active ingredients for disinfectants must be listed. However, for other cleaning products, it’s at manufacturer’s discretion.

Research indicates exposure to cleaning chemicals may contribute to cancer, respiratory problems, reproductive abnormalities, allergic reactions, behavioral problems and more. In the US, 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis, according to the US National Center for Health Statistics.

Commercial cleaning products can be harmful to the environment as well. Their ingredients make their way into the environment through toilets, sinks, the air, the trash and the ground, releasing toxins that pollute groundwater, contaminate the soil and deplete the ozone layer. Also, pollution is created by the manufacture and disposal of these chemical cocktails.

Current research exposes the risks of using chemical based cleaning products and notes that over 90% of poison exposures happen at home. Organic pollutants, found in many common cleaners and even air fresheners, are found at levels 2 to 5 times higher inside your home than out. Common cleaners give off fumes that can potentially increase the risk of kids developing asthma. Rates in children under five increased more than 160% from 1980 – 1994.

Children are highly vulnerable to chemical toxins. Pound for pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than adults, allowing for heavier exposures than adults to any toxins that in water, food, or air. In addition, young kids are more sensitive because their brains, internal organs, respiratory and immune systems are still developing.

The good news is you have a choice. Start reading the ingredients and warning labels on your cleaning products.  If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on a product or they are not there, you probably shouldn’t use it. Instead opt for eco-friendly, natural cleaners that are free of carcinogens, phosphates, dyes, fragrances, chlorinated solvents and other undesirable ingredients. By choosing less hazardous products, you can better protect the health of your family and the planet.

To find out what's lurking on your shelves, go to the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine Household Products Database. ( It is possible to search almost any brand of cleaner you use, find out what's in it, and uncover its links to health effects.

Penny Dietz is a Charlotte based Mom-preneur and founder of green i am, which focuses on the benefits of living well while living responsibility. To learn more, visit

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