The hidden health dangers under your sink

Cleaning is something that has to be done regularly – just like exercising and eating nutritious foods – to stay healthy. A little dirt never hurt anyone, but living in an unhygienic environment can take a toll on your body.

That being said, many people don’t realize how dangerous cleaning products themselves can be.

Common ingredients found in name-brand cleaning products can be dangerous to our health and to the environment. That goes for household products as well as toiletries and cosmetics.

A few ingredients to watch out for include:

• Sodium Hydroxide: Although sodium hydroxide is purported to be safe in low doses, various studies show it to be related to neurotoxicity, organ system toxicity, cancer and skin irritation. Sensitive skin may react to products that contain sodium hydroxide.

• Aluminum Chlorhydrate: This ingredient is suspected to be toxic to the environment. Animal studies have shown that it irritates the skin. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, it may also be linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, as well as neurotoxicity and organ system toxicity.

• Parabens: Researchers in England have found that parabens may impact cells to increase chances of breast cancer. Other scientists in the United States disagree, but you might want to avoid products containing parabens just to be on the safe side.

Many toxic ingredients go by several names. Sodium Hydroxide, for example, is also known as caustic soda, sodium hydrate and sodium lye, to name just a few.

Learning the different names can help you know what to watch out for when you read the ingredient list on household cleaners.

The amounts of these ingredients in the products that we use may be minuscule, but they may become harmful if we use them day after day for years.

It is not necessary to ditch every product you own that contains these ingredients. Making a slow transition to products which are better for your body and the environment is a great step to take.

There are some excellent products out there with safer ingredients. Tropical Traditions carries a line of healthier, eco-friendly cleaning products. Their All Purpose Cleaner works like a dream.

Crystal Essence carries an impressive line of natural deodorants that smell great and work better than most mainstream products. Seed is another up-and-coming great brand which provides lotions, shampoos and soaps.

While you are trying to navigate various brands, consider sticking with the most basic (and safe!) cleaning products of all: baking soda, vinegar and water.

These three products are cheap and often clean a surface more effectively than any special product that you can buy in a store.

And, you don’t have to agonize over any ingredient list when you use these three items, either.

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor. Check out her health and wellness blog at

Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)

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