For millions around the world, cleaning is a form of escape from anxiety. The need to have things organized and spotless is a trait shared by every 1 in 40 adults around the world. However, recent studies show that constant exposure to cleaning materials is not good for our health. In fact, a new study found that regular use of cleaning products is as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Scientists who carried out the study advised that such products should be avoided and can normally be replaced with simple microfiber cloths and water. So, what kind of products are affecting us negatively? Let’s take a look at some of the products and natural replacements that limit our exposure to such harmful chemicals.
1. Most dishwashing liquids stick to the utensils and plates, which then reaches our stomach. An NCBI study found that on average, an adult eats about 1 mg of dishwashing liquid every day.
Some people do not trust dishwashers and have the habit of leaving their plates and utensils in detergent solutions. This habit causes detergents to stick to the utensils, and if not properly rinsed off, they could enter our bodies when we use them to consume food. In fact, a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine found that on average, an adult consumes 1 mg of dishwashing liquid every day. Studies show that the detergents can cause long term damage to our gastrointestinal tract. The study also showed that the damages were irreversible after a period of 12 weeks after cessation of detergent administration. (source)
Alternative: Baking soda. According to Good Housekeeping, mix 1 tbsp of baking soda with hot water and use a scrub sponge to remove stuck-on grease.
2. Most vacuum cleaners blow the dust and bacteria back into the air; further contaminating your house.
Most houses have carpets installed on top of the wooden or concrete floors. While it feels good to walk on carpets, they are not as clean as they look. Carpets are considered easier to clean, since you can use a vacuum to collect any dust or hair. Little do you know, carpets can harbor allergens which can cause long-term damage to your health. A study conducted by Australian researchers shows that most vacuum cleaners actually release dust and bacteria straight into the air. While we think the dust is being collected inside the vacuum, studies show otherwise.
Certain vacuum cleaners spit fine dust and bacteria back into the air, and can be the reason for your allergies. The team of researchers studied 21 vacuum cleaners from 11 manufacturers, that ranged from less than $100 to almost $800, and found that bacteria, dust, and allergens were being released back into the air. The study also showed that newer and more expensive vacuum cleaners emitted less bacteria and dust while older ones simply sucked the air in and spit it out. (source)
Alternative: Use vacuum cleaners with high efficiency filters such as HEPA, that filter out almost all contaminants. According to WebMD, HEPA filters are supposed to remove 99.9% of the pollen, animal dander, and even bacteria from the air.
3. Air fresheners can emit and generate a range of potentially hazardous air pollutants that can cause migraines, headaches, asthma attacks, mucosal symptoms, and breathing difficulties.
Almost all households and businesses in the United States have air fresheners installed. These little devices mask the bad musky scent and fill the air with a sweet aroma for everyone to enjoy. While it smells delightful, studies show that they are actually bad for us, as well as the environment. When an air freshener releases the pleasing aroma, it also releases hazardous air pollutants, which are trapped inside our homes. The indoor air conditioning unit then picks up the pollutants and transfers it all around the house.
Studies show that the released air pollutants can cause migraines, headaches, asthma attacks, mucosal symptoms, and breathing difficulties. According to Science Direct, a typical air freshener releases over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds. (source)
Alternative: Oranges and cloves. You can poke holes in oranges and simply place them around the house. While this is not a conventional and inexpensive method, it is surely safe.
4. Most window cleaners contain ammonia and phthalate, which has a negative influence on male reproductive health.
Your trusty blue ammonia-based window cleaner has two chemicals — chlorine and ammonia; which can cause damage to your lungs. Even if you take a hot shower after using the chemicals, they still manage to get inside your body. Once the chemicals are absorbed by your body, they can cause skin, throat, lung or eye irritations. According to TODAY, most all-purpose cleaners contain solvents and surfactants suspected of causing or aggravating asthma symptoms; phthalates; formaldehyde; and ethylene glycol butyl ether, which has been shown to cause reproductive problems such as testicular damage, reduced fertility, and birth defects in animal studies. Some contain morpholine, which can cause liver and kidney damage, and butyl cellosolve, a neurotoxin. (source)
Alternative: Use regular household vinegar as a substitute. Not only does it remove stains, but it is also completely safe.
5. When using chemicals to unclog drainage pipes, always use gloves and a mask. Most of the chemicals have a base of sodium hydroxide, which can cause serious health issues if inhaled or severe burns if they come in contact with the skin.
One of the most popular chemical used in US households is Drano. The chemical is cheap and affordable, which attracts consumers from all over the country. Most people however, do not know that it is a lye-based household drainage cleaner, consisting in variations of sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium hypochlorate (bleach), sodium nitrate, sodium chloride (salt) and aluminum. When we pour the solution into a drain pipe, several reactions take place at the same time.
Its main ingredient is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, which dilutes most organic matter. The lye is mixed with small shards of aluminum, which in turn creates generates heat at near-boiling temperatures; which helps the decomposition process. It is also caustic, which means that it has the ability to burn or corrode organic matter. So, if it touches your skin, eyes or you end up accidentally swallowing it, seek help immediately. (source)
Alternative: Always use thick rubber gloves, masks with filters and eye goggles while handling such chemicals.
6. Laundry detergents contain complex phosphates, which not only causes health issues but also causes environmental problems.
According to studies, many manufacturers over-advertise their products to make people think that their product will make clothes whiter-than-white. The Independent states that manufacturers such as Lever Brothers and Procter & Gamble are making environmentally irresponsible packaging, ‘stereotyped’ advertising and are producing ‘some of the most incomplete, confusing and misleading environmental labeling to be found on the supermarket shelves’.
The study by Clean Clothes, Dirty Water, from the Women’s Environmental Network found that people are over-washing their clothes. When we wash our clothes too often, it not only reduces the fabric’s lifespan, but also fills the sewers with unnecessary detergents. A study also found that a single washing machine cycle releases more than 700,000 microplastic fibers with every wash. These microplastic contaminants reach our oceans, or manage to make their way into the waterways, which is then consumed by us and other lifeforms. (source 1, 2)
Alternative: Wash bedding every two weeks. Depending on the fabric, a pair of jeans or shirt can be worn an average of 3-4 times. Earlier this year, the CEO of Levi’s said that he hasn’t washed his jeans in over 10 years and he highly suggests that others should stop washing them constantly, since it ruins the fabric.
7. Cleaning products are as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, scientists warn.
A study that followed more than 6,000 people over a 20 year period found that regular use of cleaning sprays has an impact on lung health comparable with smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. Researchers also found that the cleaning products are especially harmful to women, who suffered significant health problems after long-term use of these products. At the end of the study, scientists concluded that the lung function declined in women working as cleaners or those who regularly used cleaning products at home. (source)
“While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact,” said Professor Cecile Svanes, a medic at the University of Bergen and the senior author of the study. “We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”
Alternative: Replace cleaners with simple microfiber cloths and water.
8. Furniture polish contains hazardous toxins in them that can cause cancer, fertility issues and genetic defects.
Furniture polishes can make your wooden furniture look shiny and new. While they can brighten the entire room, there are several health risks that are also associated with them. If accidentally swallowed, it can have extremely serious consequences and a trip to the emergency room. At the same time, long-term exposure to small amounts, can still cause health issues. One hydrocarbon contained in the mix is formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen that can accumulate in human fat tissue over time. Other toxins include:
- C10-12 Alkane/Cycloalkane – May cause cancer and genetic defects if ingested.
- C12-20 Isoparaffin – Can cause cancer.
- Cyclotetrasiloxane – Causes fertility issues.
- Mineral Spirits – Cancer and genetic defects.
- Petroleum Distillates – Cancer, genetic defects, damage to the nervous system and can also cause kidney damage.
These are just a few of the toxins included in furniture polishes. (source)
Alternative: 1 glass of olive oil mixed with 1/4 glass of lemon juice can remove stains from glossy surfaces.