Are Cleaning Products Making Your Family Ill?
Examples of Hazardous Chemicals
Here are examples of familiar commercial cleaning products and the hazardous chemicals they may contain. Some of these are called volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). They evaporate quickly into air and are easily inhaled.
- Air Fresheners. These may contain formaldehyde, a suspected human carcinogen that also causes nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath. Formaldehyde, used in both spray and wick deodorizers, is also a respiratory irritant. (Irritant chemicals cause inflammation of the skin, eyes, mucus membranes, and respiratory system.)
- Bleach. Household bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, which can burn or irritate eyes, skin or the lungs.
- Disinfectants. These often contain sodium hypochlorite, ammonia, or phenols. Ammonia can burn skin and irritate lungs; phenols are flammable and toxic to the respiratory and circulatory system. (Toxic chemicals cause injury or death upon ingestion, absorption, or inhalation.)
- Drain Cleaners. These may contain sodium or potassium hydroxide, also known as lye, which burns skin and eyes and may irritate the lungs.
- Oven Cleaners. These also contain sodium or potassium hydroxide.
- Toilet Bowl Cleaners. These may contain hydrochloric acid or oxalic acid, which are corrosive and cause burns. These cleaners may also contain toxic chlorinated phenols.
- Window Cleaners. These may contain ammonia, or diethylene glycol, which is a central nervous system depressant.
- Carpet and Upholstery Shampoo. These may contain perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen that can damage the liver, kidney, and nervous system.
Furniture Polish. Many of these contain petroleum distillates, which can irritate the lungs and skin.
- Painting Products. Oil- and enamel-based paints, paint strippers, and paint thinners contain volatile organic chemicals such as toluene, benzene, and methylene chloride. Short-term exposure can cause skin and respiratory irritation, nausea, or dizziness. Long-term exposure can permanently damage organs. Methylene chloride, a known animal carcinogen (and probable human carcinogen) makes up 60 to 80 percent of a typical organic chemical-based paint stripper.
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