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Hazardous Household Products: 5 Chemicals In Your House That Can Harm Your Health

Woman cleaning windows
With so many hazardous household products these days, cleaning your house may actually cause more harm than good. Adam Jones

Doing a load of laundry, cleaning the oven, and changing the car's oil are all tasks delegated among family members to keep a household up-and-running. But these everyday chores can lead to a series of health complications, if not handled with caution. The health dangers of household chemicals used for these tasks can potentially affect you and your family — even if you opt to get products that are marked either "green" or "natural."

In a study published in the Envrionmental Health Perspectives, researchers examined the chemicals found in conventional household products as well as alternative products to test their toxicity level. A total of 213 consumer products were tested for 66 chemicals that were associated with either endocrine disruption or asthma. The results of the study showed that fragranced products like air fresheners had the highest number and concentration of chemicals that can cause asthma. The "green" products, such as laundry detergent, contained 19 out of the 66 targeted chemical products in the study. "These results show we are exposed to a wide range of chemicals of concern in everyday products, and the chemicals aren't always listed on the labels," said Dr. Robin Dodson, research scientist at the Silent spring Institute and lead author of the study.

The level of toxicity of a product depends on the dosage of the product used and the length of exposure to the product, says My Cleveland Clinic. Chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and bisphenol A are of high concern among the scientific community, as these are heavily used every day in the household. The lethal chemicals have been linked to health risks of cancer and even childhood asthma. Exposure to these household chemicals continues to increase because there isn't a mandated layout of requirements for product labels used every day by consumers. The Environmental Protection Agency requires manufacturers of cleaning products to include whether the product contains any antibacterial or antimicrobial ingredients, which are pesticides. However, emphasis has not been placed on the other ingredients in the product that can be detrimental to a person's health. While further research needs to be done by toxicologists to further examine the health effects of the interaction of various chemicals, you can increase your awareness of the toxic chemicals found in your home.

So, before you begin to put your cleaning gloves on, take a look at the seven chemicals found in everyday household products that could potentially harm your health.

Air Fresheners

You may want your home to smell like Hawaiian Breeze or Clean Linen, but a pleasant scent could mean possible breathing complications. Air fresheners contain formaldehyde, a chemical that can cause discomfort in the lungs. According to My Cleveland Clinic, the chemical has also been thought to cause cancer. Air fresheners that contain p-dichlorobenzene can lead to further irritation of the skin, eyes, and throat — especially, if exposed over a long period of time.

Ammonia

The strong smell of ammonia is a good indicator that the compound is highly dangerous to your health. Ammonia can cause respiratory discomfort along with mucous membranes if you inhale it. This compound can also produce a chemical burn if it comes in contact with your skin. It is important to remember to never combine ammonia with bleach - the mix can produce gas and create breathing complications that can lead to death.

Laundry Detergent

While laundry detergent is sold nationwide in stores, it doesn't mean it is safe of dangerous chemicals. Phenols are found in laundry detergent and can cause damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver, says the National Health Institute. The mixed formula of raw materials in this product can range from symptoms of nausea to a coma.

Moth Balls

The active ingredient in moth balls can either be naphthalene or paradichlorbenzene, both of which can cause different health effects after increased exposure. If you smell moth balls, you are most likely to inhale the insecticide, says the Connecticut Department of Public Health. It is advised to never sprinkle moth balls in closets, attics, gardens, or storage areas; this preventative measure will make sure children do not reach them.

Engine Oil

Changing the oil in your car may seem like a simple task that contains no health risks. However, the exposure of heavy metals and hydrocarbons can cause nerve and kidney damage, and even in some cases, cancer. The American Petroleum Institute provides information on how and where to dispose the used motor oil in your car and provides some literature on the harmful environmental effects of the oil.

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