As people become acutely aware of the need to protect the environment, there is increasing awareness of the need to make sustainable, eco-friendly changes to reduce pollution and waste. One of the easiest ways to create a meaningful change that has a long-lasting impact is to look at the cleaning products in your home.
Whether you dread cleaning or look forward to it, everyone can agree that a home should be a healthy and safe place for your family. While it is commonly acknowledged that moving to environmentally friendly cleaning alternatives are the right choice, misconceptions about their efficiency and viability can stop one from making the shift. Biodegradable cleaning products, which swiftly degrade into non-toxic materials, have emerged as a viable option that offers a number of advantages at all levels. Traditional chemical cleaning products, on the other hand may get the job done at a cheap price, but they come with a hidden cost- they come with a host of toxic chemicals. Read on to learn more about why you should make the switch to eco-friendly cleaners:
Hidden Toxins in Regular Cleaners
The average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals, say environmental experts. From the phthalates in synthetic scents to the poisonous fumes in oven cleaners, we're constantly exposed to them. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to illnesses like reproductive disorders, asthma, cancer, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. Although it can be argued these poisonous compounds are unlikely to cause harm in small doses, it is still unknown how much damage routine exposure can cause. Moreover, there has been little research into exposure to a combination of toxins, which leaves it impossible to gauge the risks. While some ingredients create rapid reactions when exposed to them (such as headaches from fumes, or skin burns), others cause noticeable symptoms only from repeated exposure- by then, the damage is done. Chronic exposure increases the "toxic burden," or the number of toxins accumulated in the body's tissues at any particular moment. These ingredients are most frequently found in regular cleaners. Check the ingredient list of your home cleaners, and you may find any of these ingredients:
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):
Commonly Found In: Paints, Cleaners, Disinfectants, Air Fresheners, Dry Cleaned Clothing,
Reason It’s Risky: Many common household products release dangerous chemicals, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs can increase the risk of chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. Studies have shown that chemicals from cleaning supplies are linked to occupational asthma and respiratory illnesses, showing that chronic exposure increases the risk of contracting such illnesses. Some VOCs used in common household cleaners and paints include benzene, ethanol, formaldehyde and toluene. Chemicals such as ethanol (commonly found in disinfectants) are especially dangerous as they leave residue behind, leaving one to be exposed to it on a long-term basis. Using cleaners that contain chlorine is also harmful as it can react with ammonia, which can cause neural damage. Babies, children, and pets are especially at high risk as they are still in their primary stages of mental and physical development.
Commonly Found in: Fragranced household products like dishwashing liquid, air freshers, or any household cleaner that contains fragrance. As companies are not required to disclose the formulation of their scents, many cleaning labels do not disclose phthalates on a label- if you see the word "Fragrance" on a label, it's likely that phthalates are used in the formulation.
Reasons It's Risky: Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. This means that when absorbed into the body, phthalates can block or mimic female hormones. They can cause infertility. Although exposure mainly occurs through inhalation, phthalates can also be absorbed through skin contact by using scented soaps- this is a significant problem, as the skin has no safeguards against toxins. Absorbed chemicals go straight to the organs.
Commonly Found In: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps that are labelled "antibacterial", toothpastes, soaps
Reasons It's Risky: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Overuse of antimicrobial chemicals can lead to microbes developing resistance, which can reduce the efficacy of these chemicals. Triclosan also washes into rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. There is also evidence that triclosan can affect the structure of neurons, causing problems in motor function. Although partially banned by the USFDA, there have been no such regulations imposed in India as of yet.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QATCs)
Commonly Found In: Disinfectant wipes, sprays and liquids; laundry disinfectants, surface cleaners, antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers
Reasons It's Risky: QUATCs are another type of antimicrobial agent, and thus create the risk of breeding resistant strains of bacteria. They are also a skin irritant; according to one 10-year study, QUATs were one of the leading causes of contact dermatitis. They are also linked to increased risk of respiratory disorders- there is evidence to suggest that even healthy people who are exposed to QUATs on a regular basis develop asthma as a result.
There are a variety of Quats in sanitizing and disinfecting products, the most common of which are:
- alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC)
- dodecyl didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC)
- hexadecyltrimethylammonium (‘cetrimide’)
- benzalkonium chloride (BAC)
It’s important to know the chemical names of QUATs, as products containing QUATs will not use the term QAC or Quat, but instead will list the full name of the active ingredient which often ends in “ammonium chloride.
Commonly Found In: Glass Cleaners, All-purpose spray cleaners, Household Cleaners, Liquid Soaps
Reasons It's Risky: If your product has a sweet, ether-like odour, it's likely to contain 2-Butoxyethanol. The law does not require 2-Butoxyethanol to be listed on a product's label. Short-term exposure to high levels is associated with nausea, tremor and anemia. Animal studies have reported reproductive and developmental risks from inhalation exposure. It is also an allergen and irritant. Using cleaners that contain this compound in a confined area, like an unventilated bathroom, can actually result in inhaling levels that are higher than workplace safety standards.
Commonly Found In: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, glass cleaners, toilet cleaners, drain cleaners, bathroom cleaners
Reasons It's Risky: Because ammonia evaporates and does not leave streaks, it's commonly used as a surface cleaner to get that streak-free shine. Ammonia is a powerful irritant and can aggravate respiratory issues in people who already have lung issues and breathing problems. Chronic ammonia exposure can lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma. Higher concentrations of ammonia (such as in industrial cleaners) can cause burns and injury. Children are especially vulnerable to ammonia exposure as they have a greater lung surface-area-to-body-weight ratio. Moreover, concentrations of ammonia vapours are closer to the ground, leaving children vulnerable to inhalation due to their shorter heights. Ammonia can also create a poisonous gas if mixed with bleach.
Commonly Found In: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners and laundry detergents
Reasons It's Risky: One can be exposed to chlorine through many avenues, such as inhalation or skin contact. The health risks of chlorine can be acute as well as chronic. At an acute level, it's a respiratory irritant, causing coughing spasms, discomfort in the chest, suffocating feelings, and irritates the throat, eyes and skin. Chlorine gas can also react explosively with many common chemicals such as ammonia and alcohols. Chronic exposure (long-term) is linked to diseases of the lung such as bronchitis and shortness of breath, and tooth corrosion.
8. Sodium Hydroxide
Commonly Found In: Oven cleaners, drain openers
Reasons It's Risky: As it has strong corrosive qualities, exposure to sodium hydroxide can cause skin and eye irritation, or even burns. Acute exposure can also cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or chest and stomach pain. It is also known as caustic soda, or lye. Prolonged or repeated skin contact with sodium hydroxide can cause contact dermatitis. As sodium hydroxide is odorless, one cannot tell when they are exposed to inhalation of the substance. But prolonged levels of inhalation can cause lung irritation.
Making The Switch to Safe
A quick scan of the common household products you use may show the presence of one or more of the ingredients listed above. Cleaning must not come at the cost of health and safety. Pets and children are especially vulnerable to exposure of these chemicals, as they are smaller in body weight- lower concentrations of the same chemical can cause irreversible damage.
Eco-friendly, biodegradable cleaners like PureCult products are made from all-natural plant-based ingredients with no toxic chemicals, so your home stays healthy and safe, while also protecting the planet. Without any VOCs, bleach, ammonia, phthalates or sulphates, they clean just as effectively as regular cleaners without any of the harmful effects.