The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about early exposure to chemicals during childhood and one of the main sources is household cleaning products.
1. Antibacterial cleaners
It may be safer to take your chances with the germs. These cleaners contain triclosan, which can form dioxin, which is linked to weakened immune systems, decreased fertility, hormone disruption and birth effects. There is also a danger of triclosan mixing with the chlorine in tap water to form the deadly chlorinated dioxins.
Alternative: Regular soap, which kills 99.4% of germs. Antibacterial soap kills 99.6%.
2. Air fresheners
Air fresheners actually stop you from smelling by coating nasal passages with a film of oil or by releasing nerve-deadening agents. One main ingredient, formaldehyde, is a carcinogen, causing allergic reactions, dermatitis, headaches, mucous membrane irritations, joint and chest pain, depression, fatigue, dizziness and immune dysfunction. Another main component, phenol, causes skin eruptions, cold sweats, convulsions, circulatory collapse and, in extreme cases, coma.
Alternative: Open the window or use an exhaust fan.
3. Dishwasher detergents
Dishwasher detergents are the number one cause of accidental child poisoning. They contain a dry form of highly concentrated chlorine that is poisonous and has been know to produce skin irritations or burns, and cause eye injuries as well as damage to other mucous membranes. Residue built up on dishes can transfer into your hot meal.
Alternative: Buy phosphate-, chlorine-, colour- and perfume-free detergent.
4. Oven cleaners
Among the most dangerous chemicals in households, these cleaners contain sodium hydroxide (a derivative of lye) so corrosive it can eat through the top layer of skin and cause severe tissue damage. It is also caustic for eyes and lungs. Also contains benzene, toluene, xylene, methanol and ethyl benzene, which are all known carcinogens, damaging to the nervous system and unborn children. Residue can be released into the air as toxic fumes when the oven is heated.
Alternatives: Make a paste with salt, baking soda and water.
5. Carpet and upholstery shampoo
The main ingredient is perchloroethylene (the same one used in dry cleaning) is a known carcinogen, damaging to the liver, kidneys and the nervous system. Ammonium hydroxide, another ingredient, is corrosive, extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages. Fumes are carcinogenic and known to case dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite and disorientation.
Alternative: Use a mix of baking soda and water. Salt will take out he wine or fruit stains. Club soda will remove lighter stains. Baking soda and cornstarch will deodorize.
6. Toilet, tub and tile bowl cleaners
Highly toxic, bathroom cleaners are a source of many poisonings, particularly since they are used in small, often windowless spaces. Most contain hydrochloric acid (corrosive to skin and eyes, and damages kidneys and liver) or hypochlorite bleach (corrosive to eyes, skin and respiratory tract, and known to cause vomiting and pulmonary oedema if inhaled). These cleaners also contain benzene, toluene, xylene, methanol and ethylbenzene, which are all known carcinogens that damage the nervous system and cause birth defects.
Alternative: Remove toilet bowl stains with pure vinegar. Dilute with water to remove soap scum. Washing soda is also effective on tiles.