My challenge is to clean one or more rooms in your house. Cleaning has shown to improve both mental and physical health. But instead of using potentially harmful chemicals, I want you to use healthier alternatives (I’ll provide a recipe below)! Write about your experience using natural cleaners. Some questions to think about: Do you think we should be concerned with the ingredients in household cleaning solutions? Which cleaners (natural vs. chemical) do you feel safer using? What chemicals are in your products?
Cleaning is good for you!
One study (Keith, 2013) found that there was a correlation between clean houses and healthy people [though, I do feel the need to point out that that healthy people, will have an easier time maintaining their home than a sick individual.] Decluttering your space can have a positive impact on your ability to focus and increases productivity. Cleaning has been shown to decrease stress levels and promotes physical activity. Frequent cleaning will also help allergy issues; I need to change my sheets often due to my cats. This is an interesting article regarding the psychology of cleanliness.
Cleaning products are a consumer health concern, and many contain detrimental toxic chemicals. I will provide a list below of 5 common cleaning ingredients and their health impacts. You might also want to check out this cleaner “hall of shame” too.
So, what can you use to clean that is not a determinate to your health or the environment?
Alternatives to Store-bought Chemical Cleaners
White vinegar is one of my favorite cleaning products. It has a multitude of uses and gets rid of most household germs, including the flu virus. To create the disinfectant, you mix a solution of 50-50 water-vinegar in an empty spray bottle. You can also add lemon or tea tree oil for extra cleaning power and scent (just make sure the oils are pure and don’t have added chemicals). You should use dish soap to clean areas contaminated with raw meat, as it does a better job against salmonella than white vinegar.
If you are interested, I encourage you to look up natural DIY cleaning products. I like DIY over store-bought “natural” or “green”, as their labels often misleading. Making the solutions at home is also cheaper. This article is a good place to start!
5 Common Chemicals in Cleaning Products
Found in: Air fresheners, dish soap, toilet paper, shampoo, hair spray, “fragrance” labeled items. Companies do not have to disclose the presence of phthalates due to proprietary laws. If it is labeled “fragranced” there is a good chance they will be in the product.
Health Concerns: The long-term effects of phthalates are currently unknown. Phthalates can cause endocannabinoid system (Albert, Guy & Marzo, 2014). One study found phthalates may be endocrine disruptors (Albert & Jegou, 2013. High phthalate metabolites have been correlated with obesity and insulin resistance (Desvergne & Casals-Casas, 2009). High amounts of phthalates have been shown to damage the liver and testes of rodents in lab studies (CDC, 2007).
Found in: dry cleaning solutions, stain remover, carpet cleaner
Health risk: Can affect the neurological and raspatory system. NTP, EPA and IARC have found it is likely to be carcinogenic to humans (CDC, 2011).
Found in: liquid dishwashing detergent, antibacterial hand soaps, toothpaste, toys
Health Risk: Triclosan has been classified as a contaminant of emerging concern (CEC); this means it is currently being investigated for risks to public health (USGS, 2016). Some studies found that high doses lead to levels of decreased thyroid hormones. Triclosan also may be contributing to the antimicrobial resistance issue (FDA, 2016).
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
Found in: disinfectants, fabric softener
Health Risks: Contact dermatitis, asthma trigger. Possibly contributes to cancers, reproductive problems and endocrine but not enough research has been conducted to be sure (SCOH, 2015).
Found in: dishwasher detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, disinfectants, pools
Health Concerns: Body reacts to chlorine (inhalation/digestion/topical) exposure by producing acid. These acids destroy and damage cells in the body. Symptoms include blurred vision, skin irritation, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, fluid in the lungs. High concentrations of chlorine may cause chronic respiratory complications (CDC, 2013). Long-term health effects have not been properly researched at this time. Some sites mentioned that chlorine may contribute to thyroid disorders, but I want unable to find any peer-reviewed studies on the subject.
Albert, O., Jegou, B. (2013). A critical assessment of the endocrine susceptibility of the human testis to phthalates from fetal life to adulthood. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/20/2/231/664157/A-critical-assessment-of-the-endocrine
Centers for Disease Control. (2007). Third National Report of Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20070401141153/http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/thirdreport.pdf
Centers for Disease Control. (2011). Tetrachloroethylene (PERC). Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=48
Centers for Disease Control. (2013). Facts about Chlorine. Retrieved from https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/chlorine/basics/facts.asp
Desvergne, B., Casals-Casas, C. (2009). PPAR-mediated activity of phthalates: A link to the obesity epidemic? Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030372070900149X?via%3Dihub
The Food and Drug Administration. (2016). 5 Things to Know About Triclosan. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm205999.htm
McPartland, J., Guy, G., Marzo, V. (2014). Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951193/
Keith, N. (2013). Tidier homes, fitter bodies? Retrieved from http://newsinfo.iu.edu/web/page/normal/14627.html
United States Geological Survey. (2016). Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment. Retrieved from https://toxics.usgs.gov/investigations/cec/index.php
Selifkoff Centers for Occupational Health. (2015). Quaternary Ammonium Compounds in Cleaning Products: Health & Safety Information for Public Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://med.nyu.edu/pophealth/sites/default/files/pophealth/QACs%20Info%20for%20Physicians_18.pdf