Is a Clean House Bad News for Your Health?
by Jacklyn Thomas

Indoor air pollutants have been found to be up to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, which is a big problem considering the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. These air pollutants are directly affecting your health and have been linked to things from headaches and allergies to respiratory problems and cancer. Ditching the chemical cleaners and switching them for traditional cleaning methods can drastically improve indoor air pollution levels, thus your health too.

Man blowing into tissue

The health effect cleaning products have

Many different cleaning products have been linked to irritating the eyes and throat, can cause headaches, allergies, respiratory problems, asthma, and even cancer. This is because they release dangerous chemicals that are harmful, with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being one of them. Ammonia and bleach are also known to be harmful to health. One study from the University of Bergen in Norway found that women working as cleaners had lung function that was comparable to people who smoked 10-20 cigarettes a day over 20 years. Lung function was also affected in participants who used spray air fresheners in their homes as little as once a week.

Reducing and eliminating the effects

The good news is that you can still have a clean home without the harmful health effects. Reading the labels on cleaning products to choose ones that have fewer or no VOCs, irritants, fragrances, or flammable ingredients can help, but manufacturers aren't obliged to list all ingredients. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a ‘Safer Choice’ list of cleaning products, so choosing from these is a good option. Using products in well-ventilated areas is recommended too, such as with windows and doors opened. However, the safest and greenest cleaning option you can use is a mix of water, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. This can be used to clean almost anything around the home and is completely safe.

What about cleaning products labeled ‘natural’ and ‘green’?

Sadly, natural and green products, that you would assume are safe options, have also been linked to harmful health consequences. This is because there are no federal regulations for what products can or can’t contain to be labeled as ‘natural’. ‘Natural’ cleaning products are likely to be a bit better for your health, but they’ll probably still contain toxic chemicals. In fact, Method, Seventh Generation, Honest Company, and Greenworks all contain toxic chemicals that are known skin and respiratory irritants that can also cause allergies.

Another worrying fact is that the last time the law was changed regarding the safety of chemical products was 1976. A lot has changed since then and more is known about the effects of the ingredients used in cleaners, yet this isn’t reflected in the law or the products readily available on the shelf.

Cleaning your home is about making it safe and hygienic for you and your family, which is why it’s so important to ditch the chemical cleaners and use simple, safe substitutes that you already have around your home, such as vinegar and lemon.


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