Are Your Cleaning Products Harming Your Health?

Learn About the Dangers Lurking in Common Cleaning Products

ARE YOUR CLEANING PRODUCTS SAFE FOR A CHILD TO CONSUME? If not (or if you’re not sure), this post is for you!

There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today, the majority of which have never been tested and publicly assessed for safety. How can this be?

First, there is an absence of federal regulations requiring that safety tests be conducted on chemicals. Second, there are no federal regulations placing legally-binding upper limits on toxic ingredients and impurities that can be put into cleaning and personal care products.

As a result, there is little known about the long-term health consequences of exposure to the chemicals used in the products on store shelves. And little research has been conducted to evaluate whether ingredients in our cleaning sprays, air fresheners, lotions, or makeup may be toxic to the brain, nervous system, endocrine system, and other organs.

The lack of safety testing and upper limits is compounded by the fact that manufacturers of cleaning products are not required to list a product’s ingredients on its packaging. New laws in CA and NY require labeling for products sold in those states by early 2020, but I’m not aware of similar legislation being discussed in other states.

This unfortunate reality means that cleaning product labels often do not give us as consumers enough information to make informed decisions regarding which ones might harm our health.

Cleaning products have been linked to both acute and chronic health issues. For example:

  • According to a recently released study conducted over a 20-year period in Norway, regular use of cleaning sprays can have as much of an impact on health – particularly on lung function – as smoking 20 cigarettes (AN ENTIRE PACK!) a day. Many people would never consider smoking, but don’t give a second thought to the dangers of inhaling cleaning products! 

  • Frequent exposure to cleaning supplies is linked with development of asthma and other respiratory problems. In September 2017, French scientists released a study of over 55,000 nurses in the U.S. who used disinfectants to clean surfaces at least once a week. The study found that those who were exposed to disinfectants had a 24 percent to 32 percent increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

  • In 2006, 10,318 children under age 6 received treatment in American emergency rooms after being poisoned by household cleaners. 744 of those children exhibited symptoms that were life-threatening or that resulted in significant residual disability.

  • According to a 2010 study by the New York State Department of Health, children born to women who hold cleaning jobs while pregnant have an elevated risk of birth defects. A follow-up analysis in 2012 found that cleaners had the highest risks of birth defects among their offspring compared with other occupations. Cleaners also have increased risk for more types of defects than other occupations. 

  • Some cleaning products cause chemical burns, poisonings, irritation, or allergies.

  • Many cleaners contribute to smog, reduce the drinking water quality, and are toxic to animals.

The scariest part is that this list is far from exhaustive!  I easily found at least a couple dozen additional studies on the health impacts of cleaning products while trying to better understand the nature of the problem. 

Here’s a look at a small sampling of the chemicals commonly found in cleaning products:

Parabens (often found in antimicrobial products) are a class of preservatives used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. They mimic estrogen in the body, causing hormone disruption, reproductive problems, neuro-toxicity, and skin irritation. Linked to breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.

Triclosan (antibacterial hand soap, dish soap, bar soap, toothpaste, and mouthwash) is an antimicrobial pesticide that contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is toxic to the aquatic environment, and affects the endocrine and reproductive systems.

Formaldehyde (used in spray and wick deodorizers and as a preservative) is a respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen. It is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.

Fragrances are engineered scents that may contain any combination of 3,000+ stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and, therefore, do not need to be disclosed on product labels. They can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP, and others), a group of chemicals found in synthetic fragrances, are used to make products more pliable or to help fragrances stick to the skin. They are used in everything from laundry detergent to dish soap and air fresheners to toilet paper. Phthalates are linked to early puberty in girls, disruption in the endocrine system, and may cause birth defects.

Diethylene glycol (found in window cleaner) negatively affects hormone processes and fetal development.

Here are some other conventional cleaning ingredients to avoid:

Ammonium Chlorides
Glycol ethers
Quarternium-15 and 24
Quaternary ammonium compounds
Sulfuric Acid

Feel like you should be suiting up like this before you clean???

dangers of cleaning products to your health
Is it possible to have a clean home without all these chemicals? Absolutely! You can easily achieve this goal by making your own! That way, you have complete control over each and every ingredient. Did you know that virtually every cleaning product can be made with a handful of basic ingredients that you likely have in your house + essential oils?

Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the flowers, seeds, stems, bark, and other parts of plants.rosemary essential oil
They are multipurpose and have many health and wellness uses beyond cleaning. Their specific chemical compositions and aromas provide valuable physical and psychological therapeutic benefits when used aromatically, topically, or internally.

Essential oils can be used to:
  • Reduce stress, anxious feelings, and negative emotions
  • Promote relaxation and sleep 
  • Relieve head tension
  • Reduce muscle aches and soothe joints 
  • Improve digestive function
  • Promote clear breathing and healthy respiratory function
  • Strengthen the immune system 
  • Increase energy, creativity, and mental clarity
  • Improve the appearance of skin and hair 
  • Clean your home without toxic chemicals

Essential oils are nontoxic and will not pollute your home, the water supply, or the environment when used in cleaning products. Click here to learn more about essential oils!

Making your own cleaning products gives you complete control over the ingredients and saves you money! An added bonus is that they are super simple and quick to make using ingredients that you likely already have in your kitchen or bathroom. Ready to give natural cleaning a try?

In my next blog post, I’ll give you the low down on exactly what supplies you will need, as well as some great recipes that will have you safely cleaning up a storm in no time. Click here to check it out!   

If you're interested in trying essential oils -- for green cleaning or otherwise -- but feel overwhelmed or confused by which oils to start with or how to use them, let a certified aromatherapist be your guide (that's me!). 
  • Feel free to email me at
  • Want to talk on the phone? No problem! I'm happy to answer your questions. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute chat! 
I'll get you headed in the right direction for you and your family! 

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