What chemicals do you use in your house?

I just organised a cleaning lady to come in once a week to do some basic cleaning. We only use natural cleaning products (Tri Nature), but do have things like Exit Mould in the house, which I may use once or twice a year for stubborn problems. I told the cleaning lady that she could not use any harsh cleaning products or bleaches as we use Bio Cycle to recycle all our water for the garden.

As most of you ladies probably know, we usually do a clean before the cleaning lady comes……..as did I before she came the first time. I actually used Exit Mould in the shower to make sure my shower was looking its best for the cleaning lady. She has only been cleaning the house for 2 weeks and she left an empty bottle of Exit Mould on the kitchen bench to be replaced. I was stunned! Besides the fact that I asked her not to use harsh chemicals, I couldn’t believe that she had used the whole bottle in 2 weeks to clean 2 showers. She had a blank look on her face, when I told her that Exit Mould was considered a harsh chemical and not to be used. “What else can I use in the shower then???” she asked.

So many things went through my head. Who uses Exit Mould on a weekly basis to clean their showers? What chemicals does she use in her house? How many people are like her using these chemicals on a regular basis? Do people realise what they are doing to themselves and their families? Don’t people know what detrimental affect chemicals have on their health? I since found out that people don’t realise the massive impact chemicals have on their and their family’s health.

A study published in the journal Environmental Health found that when about 400 women were asked about cleaning products, researchers found a potential connection to breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer risk was highest among women who reported the most use of cleaning products and air fresheners.

Phthalates are widely used in household cleaners, air fresheners and plastics. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Men with higher phthalate compounds in their blood had correspondingly reduced sperm counts according to a 2003 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Most cleaning products contain fragrances. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. Researchers from 10 European countries did a study of more than 3,500 people who cleaned their homes regularly (most were women). They were part of a larger study of asthma in the EU called the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. They found that by using cleaning sprays just once per week it increased the risk of asthma or asthma like symptoms by 40 percent. The more often sprays were used the greater the likelihood of asthma. Those who used sprays more than four times per week were twice as likely to see a doctor and be diagnosed with asthma than those who didn’t use sprays.

What about laundry detergents?

Most laundry detergents include Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). That’s what makes the product foam, whether it be laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, soap or shampoo.

Not only does it irritate the skin, but it is absorbed by the skin as well. It acts as an estrogen. The molecule attaches to estrogen receptors, mimicking our natural hormones in the body system. This results in hormonal chaos. The body loses control on how to manage its own estrogen levels. It disrupts the balance between progesterone and estrogen in the female body.

Another concern is 1,4-dioxane. It is not added intentionally. It is a by-product of SLS. The National Institute of Health (NIH) substance profile sheet confirms that 1,4-dioxane is “reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen” based on the research to date, and even trace amounts bring cause for concern.

Putting chemicals on your skin may actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body. However, when you put these chemicals on your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs. Think about your children wearing clothes washed in these laundry detergents. The absorbency rate of these chemicals is even higher when they sweat as the warmth helps the body to absorb it easier.

What are the alternatives?

Vinegar cleans much like an all-purpose cleaner. All you need is to mix a solution of equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section of the lemon. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. Be aware that lemon juice can act as a natural bleach. Use baking soda mixed with apple cider vinegar to clean drains and bathtubs, or sprinkle baking soda along with a few drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil (which have antibacterial qualities) as a simple scrub for your bathroom or kitchen. Of course there are some commercial natural health products available. You most likely won’t find many of them at the supermarket.

Elliott, L. Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2006; vol: 114 pp. 1210-1214.
The Columbus Dispatch
Judi Vance, Beauty To Die For, Promotion Publishing, 1998