Everyone cleans their homes to protect their health. But did you know that household and cleaning products (including soaps, polishes, and grooming supplies) often include dangerous chemicals and toxins? Even “green” or “natural” products may include ingredients that can cause health problems. Some cleaning supplies can be flammable or corrosive. There are ways to limit your exposure to those risks.
How can cleaning groceries, household goods harm health?
Cleaning supplies or household products can harm your health in different ways. They can hurt the eyes or the neck or cause headaches or other health problems. Some products create dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other toxic ingredients include ammonia and bleach. Also, natural perfumes such as citrus can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors.
When using cleaning supplies they can release VOCs and other chemicals that contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic effects, and headaches, Studies are undertaken to evaluate how these chemicals influence people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses. However, prior studies link vulnerability to chemicals from cleaning supplies to occupational asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
- Aerosol splash products, including health, beauty and cleaning products;
- Air fresheners;
- Chlorine bleach;
- Detergent and dishwashing liquid;
- Dry cleaning chemicals;
- Rug and upholstery cleaners;
- Furniture and floor polish; and
- Oven cleaners.
Never combine bleach or any bleach-containing product with any detergent containing ammonia.
Continued breathing problems and even death can occur from the gasses created from this combination. Read all descriptions and follow guidance when using cleaning products.
Some natural fragrances in cleaning products (especially in air fresheners) may react with raised levels of ozone from indoor sources, like some air cleaning machines, or from outside air to form formaldehyde and dangerous fine particles indoors. Ozone is dangerous, but invisible, the gas that worsens asthma and other lung illnesses. Particles are also traditional air pollutants that can worsen asthma and other lung illnesses and hazard heart attacks and stroke. Both ozone and particles can be life-threatening. Formaldehyde is a known personal carcinogen.
How can you limit infliction from cleaning and household products?
Read all descriptions on cleaning supplies and household products before you use them. Prefer products that do not contain or have decreased amounts of VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. Companies are not forced by U.S. law to list all ingredients in customer products. Products that are marked “green” do not surely mean they are safer. Avoid using air fresheners.
As a reliable cleaning alternative, warm water and soap usually will do the trick, especially at home. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. A mix of vinegar and water can wash a glass.
When using cleaning or household products, keep the space well ventilated. Open windows and doors. Never use cleaning products in a tiny, enclosed space.
What is formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that can provoke cancer and other serious health effects. It is a colorless and flammable gas with a sharp odor detectable at very low concentrations. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical; our bodies even produce minimal amounts of formaldehyde. However, at high concentrations, formaldehyde gasses are dangerous.
What are the health effects of formaldehyde in indoor air?
Formaldehyde irritates the nose, eyes, and throat and can increase tearing of the eyes. These irritations are usually seen at levels ranging from 0.4 to 3 parts per million (ppm) and may affect hypersensitive people (those who are particularly vulnerable to formaldehyde) at concentrations as low as 0.037 ppm. Other short-term impacts include a headache, runny nose, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Exposure may cause wheezing and other respiratory symptoms.
Symptoms of formaldehyde irritation can range greatly among individuals. Some people have a natural allergic responsiveness to airborne formaldehyde and others may develop an allergy as a result of skin contact with fluid formaldehyde. Researchers are investigating whether people with asthma are more defenseless to the effects of inhaled formaldehyde. As yet, the data is inconclusive.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has named formaldehyde as a human carcinogen or cancer-causing agent. Data shows formaldehyde can cause a rare cancer of the nasopharynx, which is the top part of the throat behind the nose. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen.” It also is listed as a Toxic Air Contaminant by the State of California.
What are the sources of formaldehyde indoors?
Formaldehyde is used to produce wood, paper, plywood, glues and adhesives, permanent press fabrics, some paints and coatings, and certain insulation materials. It is also located in many consumer products, including cosmetics, dish soaps, medicines, leather treatments and fabric softeners.
Formaldehyde is being both indoors and outdoors. However, formaldehyde levels are regularly much higher indoors. Because formaldehyde is volatile, which means it diffuses easily, it is discharged into the air from many products inside the home. High humidity and high temperatures speed up the release of formaldehyde.
Smoking indoors presents high concentrations of formaldehyde. Burning wood products, fuel, paper and other products is also an important source of formaldehyde.
How can you reduce exposure to formaldehyde indoors?
Here are several simple ways to protect yourself from formaldehyde indoors.
Buy low-formaldehyde products when building or remodeling. Appointments and the pressed-wood board made with laminated surfaces release less formaldehyde and other VOCs. If possible, use non-toxic choices to formaldehyde-containing products like glue and adhesives.
Ventilate your home. Open windows or use exhaust fans to blast indoor air out and bring fresh air in. Make sure any combustion device has a separate exhaust to the outdoors. It is also essential to ventilate indoor spaces when using cleaners, cosmetic products like nail polish remover or most paints.
Air out new appointments and pressed-wood products. Many customer products that release formaldehyde, such as plywood and particle board, release the highest concentrations when they are new. Air them out before placing them or bringing them indoors.
Do not allow smoking indoors. Not smoking and preventing smoking indoors can reduce exposure to formaldehyde. Second-hand smoke holds many chemicals in addition to formaldehyde that can harm health.
Wash permanent strain clothing before wearing. Formaldehyde is used in the creation of special fabrics.