How Do Common Cleaning Products Damage Your Health And The Environment

How Do Common Cleaning Products Damage Your Health And The Environment
During the March focus of Greener Cleaning, I have done a lot of research on common household cleaning products and the chemicals they contain. The side effects of some of them are really quite staggering, I wanted to share them with you.

Environmental Impact:

Detergents are all now biodegradable, though some may break down quicker than others, but they often contain chemicals which may cause problems. Phosphates can cause eutrophication, upsetting the balance of nutrients in rivers and streams, while many products also contain enzymes, bleaches, brighteners and perfumes.

Triclosan is an anti-microbial chemical that is used as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent found in soaps, detergents, and other disinfectants. During water treatment to remove Triclosan, other chemicals are formed which are incredible harmful to aquatic life. Most notably, Triclosan has been found in aquatic snails and algae.

Ammonia is a disinfecting chemical used in cleaning products such as floor and glass cleaners. It is a significant air pollutant and is a primary source of nitrogen oxide, which is toxic to plants, a food source for many organisms. The ammonia that is not absorbed by plants is turned into nitrates in the water system. The presence of ammonium is integral to the nitrogen cycle, which negatively impacts the environment.

Health Effects:

In as little as 26 seconds after exposure, chemicals can be found in the human body in measurable amounts. That means it doesn’t matter how far away from your kids you spray, or how quickly you get the cleaning job done – once you squeeze the nozzle, it’s too late.

Fabric softeners contain harmful ingredients such as:

  • Benzyl Acetate – linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Benzyl Alcohol – upper respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol – linked to central nervous system disorders


When mixed, the contents of certain cleaners can trigger dangerous chemical reactions. Mixing chemicals such as bleach and ammonia causes them to produce toxic fumes that, when inhaled, cause coughing; difficulty breathing; and irritation of the throat, eyes and nose.

Many cleaning supplies and household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer.

Other chemicals found in household cleaning products are:

  • Formaldehyde – can cause cancer and is a skin irritation.
  • Ethanolamine – can impact the respiratory system and nervous system.
  • Sodium Borate – effects developmental, endocrine and reproductive systems.
  • Methylisothiazolinone – is a known allergen and toxicant.

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