In 2010, the Silent Spring Institute conducted a study of nearly 800 women who had breast cancer. They compared them to about the same number of women who didn’t have cancer, and found out something disturbing.
Those women who reported a greater use of cleaning products were at a higher risk for breast cancer than those who used cleaning products sparingly. Those who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had double the risk as those who reported the lowest use.
The cleaners used included air fresheners and mold-removing products. Researchers speculated that the household cleaners could contribute to cancer because they contain hormone-disrupting chemicals.
More studies are required before we know for sure whether there is a connection between certain types of cleaning products and health problems, but this study did raise some important concerns. Just what are we exposing ourselves to when we clean, and is there a better way?
Studies Reveal Risks with Cleaning Products
This isn’t the only study to shed light on the potential dangers in cleaning products. In 2008, another study indicated that exposure to products that contained a certain volatile organic compound (VOC) called “1,4-dichlorobenzene” reduced lung function by 4 percent. European researchers later found that using household cleaning sprays and spray air fresheners just once a week can increase your risk of developing asthma by nearly 50 percent.
Another study published in the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review reported that the fumes from air fresheners and fragrances contain hazardous toxins, none of which are required to be listed on product labels. An even earlier study by Berkeley researchers found that when used indoors, many common household cleaners and air fresheners emit toxic pollutants at levels that may lead to health risks.
Some Safer Alternatives
In addition to seeking out safer cleaning alternatives, one of the best ways to increase the safety in your home to make your own cleaners. All you’ll need is a few basic ingredients:
- Baking soda
- Washing soda
- White distilled vinegar
- A good liquid soap or detergent (without triclosan)
- Tea tree oil
- Spray bottles
With these basic ingredients you can make most of the cleaners you will need in your home.
Pour ½ cup baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to thicken the texture until it’s similar to frosting. Use with a sponge to clean the bathtub (it rinses clean). To store, add a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin and put into a sealed glass jar.
Combine ½ teaspoon liquid detergent with 3 tablespoons vinegar and 2 cups water. Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up, and you’re ready to go.
Sprinkle water liberally over the bottom of the oven. Cover with baking soda until the surface is white. Sprinkle more water and leave overnight. In the morning, you’ll be able to easily wipe clean. Finish off the job with a little liquid detergent.
Combine ½ teaspoon washing soda, some liquid soap, and 2 cups hot water in a spray bottle. Shake until the washing soda dissolves. That’s it!
Using a glass jar, mix ½ teaspoon oil (olive, jojoba, or a liquid wax) with ¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice. Dip a rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces.
Create a mixture with water and 5% vinegar in a clean spray bottle. Use on your cutting board, toilet seat, kitchen counters—anywhere that needs deodorizing. Just spray, wipe, and leave. The vinegar smell dissipates in a couple hours.
Combine 2 cups water with 2 teaspoons tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Tea tree is a great anti-bacterial and general bug killer that works great on mold. Try it on your moldy shower curtain, rug, or ceiling. Simply spray. Don’t rinse.
Do you have other recipes for home cleaners? Please share with us!
Picture courtesy Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net.
Serena Gordon, “Home Spray Cleaners Could Raise Asthma Risk,” ABC News, March 23, 2008, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4509026&page=2.
C. Steinemann, et al., “Fragrances consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted,” Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010, http://www.national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation.org/fragun.pdf.
Liese Greensfelder, “Study warns of cleaning product risks,” UC Berkeley, May 22, 2006, http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/05/22