Hidden dangers in household cleaning products

While we all know the dangers of mixing bleach and ammonia, there are lots more hidden dangers lurking in the cleaning products we have under our sinks.  Environmental Working Group has a great Hall of Shame of cleaning products on their website–broken down into categories such as “Greenwashing,” “Dead zone detergents,” and “Banned abroad.”  The list is available at this website, or on this pdf.

Some highlights:

Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner

It’s labeled “non-toxic” and “biodegradable.” It contains:

  • 2-butoxyethanol, a solvent absorbed through the skin that damages red blood cells and irritates eyes;
  • A secret blend of alcohol ethoxylate surfactants. Some members of this chemical family are banned in the European Union.

Worse, the company website instructs the user to dilute the product significantly for even the heaviest cleaning tasks. Yet it comes in a spray bottle that implies it should be sprayed full-strength. Such use would result in higher exposures.

Scrubbing Bubbles – Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner & Extend-A-Clean Mega Shower Foamer

These products contain up to 10 percent DEGBE, also called butoxydiglycol, a solvent banned in the European Union at concentrations above 3 percent in aerosol cleaners. It can irritate and inflame the lungs.

Final Touch Ultra Liquid Fabric Softener

This brand contains quaternium-18 (dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride or DHTDMAC), which also cannot be used in cleaning products sold in the European Union because of its persistence in the environment.

I know that in some circles suggesting we follow a European example is an anathema, but so it goes.
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