Toxic Chemicals in Cleaning Products

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These potentially toxic chemicals can be found in many household cleaners. For a safer way to clean your home, check out the post Spring Cleaning with Eco-Friendly Cleaners.

chemical cleaners
Photo By Les Cunliffe/Fotolia

Chlorine Bleach

Usually found in scouring powder and dishwashing detergent. Contains:

Chlorine: Fumes can cause stomach disorders and irritation to eyes and respiratory tract; may cause reddening of the skin

Ammonia

Usually found in window/glass and all-purpose cleaners. Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation

Drain Cleaners

Contains:

Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness
Sulfuric acid: can cause severe skin burns and blindness

Floor Cleaners

Contains:

Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Naphthas: can cause drowsiness, headache, coma and cardiac arrest if inhaled; can irritate eyes, throat and skin

Furniture Cleaner

Contains:

Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Oil of cedar: central nervous system depressant; may cause miscarriages

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium bisulfate: forms sulfuric acid, can burn skin
Oxalic acid: damages kidney and liver; irritates eyes and respiratory tract; corrodes mouth and stomach
5-dimethyldantoin: forms hypochlorite in water, which can corrode skin and mucous membranes
Hydrochloric acid: fumes are caustic; can burn skin
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin

Disinfectants

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Cresol: damages tissue, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and spleen
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness.
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin
Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes

Carpet Cleaner

Contains:

Perchloroethylene: fumes are carcinogenic; can cause dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite and disorientation
Naphthalene: damages liver; prolonged vapor exposure can lead to cataract formation

Air Fresheners

Contains:

Formaldehyde: a suspected carcinogen; can irritate eyes, throat, skin and lungs
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
P-dichlorobenzene: irritates skin, eyes and throat, can cause liver damage in animal studies
Aerosol propellants: either associated with brain damage or highly flammable

All Purpose Cleaners

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate: can poison animals and cause damage to internal organs through skin absorption; inhalation can cause dizziness
Sodium hyperchlorite: corrosive to skin and mucous membranes; fumes irritating

Oven Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Potassium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness

Laundry Detergents

Contains:

Enzymes: can cause asthma and dermatitis from large amounts of exposure.

Sources: The EPA; dishwasherdetergentphosphate.com


Lorraine HalstedLorraine Halsted is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys writing about environmental issues and natural living. She is an herb grower and a member of the Shenandoah Herbal Society.