We all want our skin to look younger and our clothes and home smelling fresh and delightfully fragrant.
But in the pursuit of defying the aging process, sanitizing our homes and removing stains, are we jeopardizing our health? Do the everyday household products that millions of us use contain cancer-causing ingredients?
In this article, we’ll examine the following types of products and reveal the ingredients in them that are cause for alarm:
- Laundry detergent
- Dryer sheets
- Cleaning sprays
- Air fresheners
- Feminine hygiene
And at the conclusion, we’ll reveal steps you can take to ensure the everyday products you use do not pose any risk to your health.
Harmful Ingredients in Laundry Detergent and Dryer Sheets
Americans spend over $5 billion a year on laundry detergent. [SOURCE]
If you use Tide, Gain, Persil or any other mainstream brand of laundry detergent, after reading this, you may want to consider switching brands.
That’s because, according to a study in Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets “contain carcinogens that waft through vents, potentially raising cancer risk.”
Unlike your car’s tailpipe emissions, which is regulated, the air that comes out of your dryer vent is not regulated. That means that volatile chemicals such as acetaldehyde and benzene—both of which are carcinogens—are released, potentially finding their way back into your home.
The study found more than 25 air-polluting chemicals that are emitted by scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets.
In another study, five of six best-selling laundry products emitted at least one carcinogenic air pollutant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is no safe exposure level to any of these hazardous compounds in laundry products.
Unfortunately, the agency pegged with overseeing the welfare and best interests of consumers—The Consumer Product Safety Commission—doesn’t require manufacturers of laundry products to list ingredients, including potentially-cancer-causing fragrances, on labels. (The same is true for air fresheners and cleaning supplies).
Currently, the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) only requires manufacturers to list storage and first-aid information for detergents and cleaners. Go ahead and take a look at the bottle of laundry detergent in your home … are the ingredients listed on the label? Most likely, they’re not.
In addition to acetaldehyde and benzene, a natural, non-toxic laundry detergent brand lists three other common toxic chemicals to watch out for: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), 1,4 dioxane and Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE).
Toxic Laundry Detergent & Dryer Sheets: Greater Risk For Lung Disease?
As if containing cancer-causing chemicals isn’t bad enough, there’s more reason for concern over using conventional laundry products.
According to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the detergents and the residue they leave behind after the rinsing cycle are harmful to the lungs. After 24 hours of exposure, even at a very high dilution, detergents caused defects in the bronchial epithelial barrier. This damage is associated with asthma and other allergies.
As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has millions of people wondering if their lungs are healthy enough to survive infection. Could it be that using a popular name-brand laundry detergent puts you at greater risk for hospitalization should you catch the novel coronavirus?
Household Cleaners: A Toxic Brew of Chemicals?
What’s the harm in a little synthetic fragrance added to your everyday cleaning spray? The problem, according to the same study that tested detergents for cancer-causing chemicals, is that “A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals.”
If your cleaning spray contains a pleasing lemony-fresh or citrus scent, these artificial fragrances can react with ozone in the air. This in turn, creates dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde. (Ethanol and acetone are two of the most common volatile chemicals in cleaning products with added fragrances.)
Air Fresheners: Plug-ins And Sprays Release Toxic Chemicals Into The Air
This report by the University of Washington reveals that plug-in air fresheners contain more than 20 different compounds that may be harmful to your health. In fact, seven of them are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.
Like laundry detergent and dryer sheets, there is no requirement for ingredients to be listed on air freshener products. The report adds that the Material Safety Data Sheet, a document required at workplaces that handle chemicals, euphemistically lists the volatile chemicals in air fresheners as a “mixture of perfume oils.”
The Dirty Secret The Skin Care Industry Is Hiding From You
The average woman uses a dozen skin care and personal care products every day. This exposes millions of women to dozens of synthetic chemicals. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy nonprofit, “No category of consumer products is subject to less government oversight than cosmetics and other personal care products.”
The truth is that most of the chemicals in skin care products pose a low risk to your health. However, EWG reports that “Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm in more than 73,000 products.”
EWG publishes on its website a list of the 20 most toxic ingredients in cosmetics. The “Toxic 20” include:
- Phthalate (Dibutyl-, Diethylhexyl-)
- Paraben (Isobutyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, Propyl-)
Many chemicals in skin care products are derived from petroleum. You probably know that the gas that goes in your car is made with petroleum, too. But would you try to minimize and smooth your fine lines and wrinkles by rubbing your face with gasoline?
Of course not. But petroleum is prevalent in the everyday skin care products you’ve been using perhaps for decades.
These toxic chemicals, even at low doses, are scientifically-proven to disrupt hormone levels. Chemicals like phthalates and phosphates are xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are synthetic hormones that disrupt the body’s natural hormone-control mechanism: the endocrine system. Xenoestrogens alter your hormone levels by mimicking natural estrogen.
Estrogen Dominance From Chemicals
Consequently, this can give rise to a condition known as estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance can result in certain hormonal-related cancers such as breast and ovarian.
The group of synthetic chemicals known as “parabens,” which is listed on EWG’s “Toxic 20” list, is a prominent ingredient in sunscreen, shampoos and other skin care products. Parabens are used by manufacturers as a preservative. In cosmetic products, parabens prevent the growth of bacteria. But the dark side of parabens is that they “trick” your body into producing more estrogen, which results in estrogen dominance.
As mentioned earlier, fragrances in laundry products are potentially carcinogenic. Fragrances are ubiquitous in skin care products. Besides their cancer-causing potential, synthetic fragrances pose other health risks such as infertility, allergies, breathing difficulty and dermatitis.
Baby Powder: Not Safe For Baby Or Moms
Another ingredient in EWG’s Toxic 20 is asbestos. Asbestos has received much attention because of the controversy surrounding Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder.
More than 20 studies have demonstrated an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer with chronic use of talcum baby powder.
The mineral, talc (from which talcum powder is derived) may contain asbestos particles (for which there is no established safe exposure level). This is due to the fact that the two minerals form near each other. During the mining process, talc and asbestos may be mixed together.
Using talcum baby powder may result in the asbestos particles travelling to and entering organs such as the ovaries.
Johnson & Johnson allegedly knew for decades that its baby powder carried an increased risk because of asbestos. The manufacturer faces thousands of lawsuits as a result.
A year-long probe conducted by the FDA, which was released on March 9, 2020, concluded that cosmetics such as facial powders and eye shadows also contain talc.
How To Avoid Toxic Exposure From Everyday Consumer Products
Are you familiar with the expression, “Death by a thousand paper cuts?” Here’s what that means: if you get one paper cut, your body can quickly repair itself. But a thousand cuts might kill you because of an infection. The same principle applies with exposure to pollutants.
It’s impossible to live in a world free of pollution. But what is in your control is the ability to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals in household products.
Although all-natural, eco-friendly brands might be more expensive, in the long run, they may save you money by avoiding steep out-of-pocket expenses for critical illnesses.
When it comes to laundry detergents, look for the words, “biodegradable” on the bottle. (Here’s an example of a safe laundry detergent brand.) For other household products, choose brands that use plant-based ingredients rather than synthetic ingredients. Labels should include phrases such as “Free-From Parabens, SLS-free,” etc.
For cosmetics and sunscreen, use EWG’s Skin Deep database. Simply type in a specific product or ingredient in the search bar and the database will reveal the safety level. (Cornstarch is a healthier alternative to talc.)
If you suspect you have hormonal imbalances caused by toxic chemicals (hot flashes and night sweats may be more bothersome because of synthetic chemicals), taking certain supplements such as wild yam extract may help.
Using Everyday Household Products Safely
Although you may have been loyal to a particular brand for decades, think about the potential harm your patronage might be causing you. Start reading labels. If a certain product does not list its ingredients and list certain attributes such as biodegradable or 99.7% pure, chances are that it may pose a health risk.
And finally, don’t assume a brand is safe for your health simply based on its name. As an example, Simple Green’s Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner scores an “F” on Skin Deep.
(The “F” does not stand for “fun.”)