Household Cleaning Products - Unacceptable Chemicals
The majority of chemicals in household cleaners cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and respiratory system. Thirty-three unacceptable chemicals found in household cleaning products have been identified and are presented in alphabetical order below.
- 1,4-dioxane is found in many "widely used detergent chemicals" such as laundry detergent, stain lifters, shampoos, and body wash.
- This chemical is a suspected carcinogen that causes "irritation of the eyes, nose and throat in humans."
- In large amounts, 1,4-dioxane can lead to kidney and liver failure, and is suspected to have caused adverse nervous system effects that have resulted in death.
- 2-Butoxyethanol is found in hard surface cleaners such as window and glass cleaners and multipurpose cleaners.
- This chemical is a possible carcinogen that will irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat when inhaled.
- It can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and passing out.
- When exposed to 2-butoxyethanol over the long term or in high amounts, it can cause kidney and liver failure and can possibly damage the reproductive system as well.
Alkyl Ammonium Chloride
- Alkyl ammonium chloride is found in disinfectants, soap scum removers, bathroom cleaners, mildew removers, and all-purpose cleaners.
- This chemical can irritate the respiratory tract and eyes, and can burn the throat if swallowed.
- Ammonia is found in both household and industrial cleaners, including window and glass cleaners, multipurpose cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, shining waxes, oven cleaners, and drain cleaners.
- Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia can cause "immediate burning of the nose, throat, and respiratory tract," which can result in respiratory distress or failure.
- Skin and eye contact with concentrated ammonia can cause burns, permanent eye damage, or blindness.
- The ingestion of high concentrations of ammonia will result in "corrosive damage to the mouth, throat and stomach."
- Low concentrations of ammonia exposure can cause coughing and irritation of the nose and throat.
- Ammonium hydroxide is found in car cleaners, disinfectants, glass cleaners, metal polishes, stain removers, floor cleaners, clog removers, surface wipes, and upholstery cleaners
- This chemical "causes skin irritation; contact can lead to severe irritation and burns. Ingestion can cause vomiting, nausea, gastric irritation and, in severe cases, perforation, central nervous system depression, shock, convulsions and pulmonary edema."
- Boric acid is found in laundry detergent, insect killing gels, toilet cleaners, and stain removers.
- In high doses, boric acid can cause blisters, collapse, coma, seizures, drowsiness, fever, low blood pressure, decreased urine output, and twitching of extremities.
- In addition, there is some evidence that boric acid may be a reproductive or developmental toxicant.
- Butoxydiglycol is found in disinfectant sprays, oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, leather cleaners, and carpet cleaners.
- This chemical is a possible carcinogen that also causes skin irritation. It may also lead to reproductive and developmental disorders and may inflame the lungs when inhaled.
- Formaldehyde, when dissolved in water, is found as formalin in industrial disinfectants, laundry detergent, dish detergent, bath soap, and body wash.
- Exposure to formaldehyde has been known to cause cancers of the nasal cavity and leukemias in laboratory test animals.
- Workers exposed to industrial levels of formaldehyde may have a higher risk of leukemia, cancer of the nasopharynx, and chromosome changes.
- Glutaral is found in oven cleaners, drain cleaners, hard water stain removers, toilet cleaners, and stove top cleaners.
- Exposure to glutaral can cause severe burns and eye damage. It is also an asthmagen (causes allergy and asthma symptoms) and in high doses, can impair the central nervous system.
- Hydrocarbons are found in wood cleaners, oil cleaners, metal cleaners, adhesive removers, pine cleaners, spot removers, and liquid furniture polishes.
- If hydrocarbons get into the lungs, they can cause a "pneumonia-like condition; irreversible, permanent lung damage; and even death." If ingested, they cause mild digestive issues like burping and diarrhea.
- Hydrochloric acid is found in toilet cleaners, whiteners, fabric softener, lime removers, stain removers, rust removers, plastic cleaners, air fresheners, and shampoos.
- Hydrochloric acid is corrosive and if it comes into "contact with the skin, eyes, or internal organs, the damage can be irreversible or even fatal in severe cases."
Lauramide Diethanolamines (DEA)
- Lauramide diethanolamines (DEA) are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.
- These chemicals cause mild-to-moderate skin and eye irritation, but high doses of exposure have been known to cause "liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid."
- Methanol is found in brake and parts cleaners, adhesive removers, de-icers, wheel cleaners, bug removers, brass cleaners, and porcelain cleaners.
- Ingestion of methanol can cause permanent blindness, central nervous system poisoning, coma, and possibly death.
- Methoxydiglycol can be found in floor cleaners and polishes.
- This chemical is suspected of "damaging fertility or the unborn child," is a skin irritant, and can cause eye irritation.
- Monoethanolamine citrate is found in oven cleaners, clog removers, stain removers, toilet cleaners, and stove top cleaners.
- This chemical is an asthmagen and will cause severe burns if it comes in contact with the skin. There is also some evidence that it can cause central nervous system depression.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylate can be found in all-purpose cleaners and degreasers.
- This chemical is "suspected to cause cancer and reproductive disorders." Specifically, it has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen," which can lead to breast cancer.
- PEG compounds are found in baby wipes and cleaners such as "penetration enhancers and surfactants."
- The issue with PEG compounds is that "ethylene oxide is used in their production in a process called ethoxylation," which can cause contamination with "ethylene oxide, a chemical associated with multiple kinds of cancer."
- Perchloroethylene is found in spot removers, shoe polish, and dry cleaners.
- The dangers of limited perchloroethylene exposure include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, lack of coordination, eye and respiratory tract irritation, and skin irritation.
- Long-term exposure can cause changes in mood, memory, attention, reaction time, and vision. In addition, perchloroethylene may cause cancer as well.
- Petroleum distillates are found in car cleaners, vinyl cleaners, polishes, waxes, tire cleaners, stainless steel polishes, heavy-duty hand cleaners, furniture polishes, shoe polishes, air fresheners, and degreasers.
- These chemicals can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea; dry cracked skin; [and] chemical pneumonitis."
- Phthalates are found in detergents.
- These chemicals are dangerous because one specific phthalate, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is an "endocrine disruptor and can cause cancer."
- Additionally, other phthalates can negatively affect human reproduction or development.
- Potassium hydroxide is found in degreasers, wheel and tire cleaners, sanitizers, oven and grill cleaners, floor cleaners, mildew and stain removers, clog removers, all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergent, dish soap, and stone cleaners.
- The dangers of potassium hydroxide include severe burns to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. This chemical can be fatal if ingested.
- Prolonged exposure to potassium hydroxide can lead to tissue destruction.
- Quaternium-15 is found in anti-static sprays, toilet cleaners, leather wipes, stain lifters, antibacterial hand soaps, floor refinishers, furniture wipes, shampoos, and body wash.
- This chemical is a highly carcinogenic compound that "is known to target the brain and the central nervous system."
- It can also "negatively affect the overall blood circulation and induce related conditions such as normocytic anemia and altered white blood cell count."
- Inhalation of quaternium-15 can cause respiratory tract damage and skin exposure can "cause severe skin irritation and dermatitis."
- Quaternium-24 is found in disinfectants, multipurpose cleaners, deodorizers, foaming cleaners, stain removers, toilet cleaners, laundry sanitizers, and mold inhibitors.
- This chemical can cause severe skin burns and eye damage at high exposure. Lower levels of exposure can cause eye and skin irritation.
- Sodium hydroxide is found in car wash products, metal polishes, all-purpose cleaners, wheel and tire cleaners, fabric cleaners, drain cleaners, disinfectants, mold and mildew stain removers, germicidal cleaners, dish detergent, carpet cleaners, heavy-duty hand cleaners, finish removers, oven and grill cleaners, toilet cleaners, and deodorizers.
- Also known as lye, this chemical is extremely corrosive and can cause severe burns. If inhaled, it can cause a sore throat that can last for several days.
- Sodium hypochlorite is found in bleach, clog removers, toilet cleaners, mildew removers, germicidal wipes, stain removers, sanitizing sprays, deck washes, drain cleaners, washing machine cleaners, kitchen cleaners, and bathroom cleaners.
- Exposure to sodium hypochlorite can cause coughing and a sore throat. If ingested, it can cause "stomach ache, a burning sensation, coughing, diarrhea, a sore throat and vomiting."
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Sodium laureth sulfate is found in foamers, cleaners, degreasers, detergents, carpet cleaners, odor removers, and all-purpose cleaners.
- Sodium laureth sulfate is a skin, eye, and lung irritant, and is a milder form of sodium lauryl sulfate, which is often found in shampoos and soaps.
- Sulfuric acid is found in wheel cleaners, degreasers, liquid dishwasher detergent, liquid laundry detergent, rust dissolvers, stain removers, bleach, foaming hand soap, and water clarifier.
- As this chemical is corrosive, it can cause serious chemical and thermal burns. If it comes into contact with the eyes, it can lead to permanent blindness and if it is ingested, it can lead to "internal burns, irreversible organ damage, and possibly death."
- High concentration exposure can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, tissue damage, and even tooth erosion.
- Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps and body washes.
- High doses of triclosan have been linked to a "decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones."
- There may also be an increased risk of skin cancer when exposed to triclosan over long periods of time.
- Triethanolamine is found in battery cleaners, wheel and tire cleaners, degreasers, metal polishes, waxes, scratch and blemish removers, oven and grill cleaners, disinfectants, hand cleaners, laundry detergents, wood cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, bleach, stain removers, dusters, and personal cleansing products.
- There is strong evidence that this chemical is a "human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen" and a "skin toxicant or allergen."\\
- Trisodium phosphate is a dry powder that when mixed with water, is used for heavy-duty cleaning that requires degreasing.
- Both the dry and wet forms of trisodium phosphate can irritate the skin.
Troclosene Sodium, Dihydrate
- Troclosene sodium, dihydrate is found in powdered bathroom cleaners (Comet).
- This chemical is known to cause respiratory effects, general systemic/organ effects, damage to vision, developmental effects, endocrine effects, reproductive effects, and skin irritation.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- Volatile organic compounds are found in air fresheners, chlorine bleach, detergent, dishwashing liquid, dry cleaning chemicals, rug and upholstery cleaners, furniture and floor polishes, and oven cleaners.
- These chemicals "contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches." They have also been linked with occupational asthma after long-term exposure.
To identify 33 unacceptable chemicals in household cleaning products, we first identified the 15 chemicals provided in the early findings. Then, we used a variety of government and medical sources to identify 18 other chemicals that are known to be dangerous or at least somewhat harmful and are in household cleaning products. Note that we occasionally used older sources that provided actual medical information from research studies rather than rely on less credible, but more recent sources.