Thousands of cleaning products on the market today contain hazardous ingredients that are harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. These ingredients can lead to serious health problems or even death. Products that are labeled “green”, “safe”, or “non-toxic” may cause health problems as well. It is often difficult to know which products are harmful because the ingredients are not always clearly listed.
There are several ingredients used to make glass cleaner that can be harmful to a person’s health. The chemical ammonia produces vapors that may trigger asthma attacks. Inhaling these vapors can also damage the nose, throat, and lungs. Exposure to ammonia can also lead to liver and kidney damage. The chemical diethylene glycol, commonly found in glass cleaners, may cause neurological problems or death, so be sure to read the labels on every brand of glass cleaner you consider.
All Purpose Cleaners
General cleaners often contain coloring agents. Coal tar dyes may contain toxic heavy metals that depress the nervous system, produce blood in the urine, and damage red blood cells. Even some “green” products contain ingredients such as 2-Butoxyethanol. This chemical is known to cause reproductive problems and destroy red blood cells.
Household disinfectant cleaners and sprays use several different ingredients to kill germs. Quaternary ammonium compounds may cause allergies, harm the respiratory system, and lead to genetic mutations. Phenols cause serious damage to both the respiratory and circulatory systems. Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate and sodium hydroxide—both found in common disinfectants—have corrosive properties, which may lead to internal and external burning. Triclosan, another common ingredient, is an endocrine disruptor that affects hormone regulation. Overuse of these disinfectants may also increase antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Many laundry detergents contain harmful ingredients, especially those in liquid form. Ethoxylated alcohols are harmful to skin and eyes, may trigger asthma, and can cause cancer. Nonylphenol ethoxylates disrupt hormone functions. Chemicals used to make these detergents smell good can cause allergic reactions, lead to migraine headaches, disrupt the endocrine system, and damage the reproductive system.
Ingredients used in cleaning products are not always listed on product labels. However, other words on the label give clues to the level of danger posed by these chemicals. A Winter Haven doctor recommends avoiding all household cleaners that use the words “warning”, “danger”, or “poison” on the label, as these cleaners are considered to be moderately to extremely toxic in just small amounts. Products labeled with the word “caution” are mildly toxic and should be used only in small amounts while wearing protective gloves.