Organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWC) have released studies about the harmful chemicals found in household and personal care products. Findings show that many of these products create indoor pollution and contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC), which interfere with the body’s hormone system. EDCs may cause cancers, fertility problems, respiratory illnesses, an early onset of puberty and other health problems. These chemicals are also suspected to contribute to obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
Unfortunately, manufacturers are not required to list ingredients for personal care or household products on the label. This makes it hard for us to choose the right chemical-free products for the home. So how do we make safe and smart purchases? Here are some quick guidelines to follow.
1. Avoid products with the following ingredients.
- Parabens: seen in personal care products, pharmaceuticals and foods as preservatives and anti-microbial agents.
- Ethanolamines: found in cleaners, degreasers, detergents, soaps, cosmetics, hair dyes and lotions.
- Glycol ethers: present in cleaning products. A way to identify these chemicals is if “xyethanol” is at the end of the word. Examples include 2-butoxyethanol and 2-2 methoxyethnanol.
- Cyclosiloxanes: used in cleaning, personal care and baby products. A way to identify these chemicals is if “siloxane” is at the end of the word, such as octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane and hexamethycyclorisiloxane.
- Phthalates: used as plastic additives and in cosmetics and pesticides.
2. Stay away from fragrances.
There are synthetic and natural scents. But be aware that even though it says it is a natural fragrance, the ingredients may have gone through a synthetic process during product formulation. Phthalates are used as a carrier that allows the fragrance to retain its smell.
3. Look for products that say “No VOCs.”
VOC stands for volatile organic compound. They cause harmful secondary pollutants, such as formaldehyde and ultrafine particles.
4. Read labels for warnings.
If the packaging doesn’t list the ingredients, use the product warnings as a guide. The following are red flags that a product contains harmful elements.
- Intentional misuse or deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.
- Do not use in small confined areas without adequate ventilation.
- Before using product throughout the house, use in one room and wait 24 hours to ensure that no one has any physical reactions to the product.
- Keep pets and children away from newly cleaned carpets until thoroughly dried and vacuumed.
- Extremely flammable.
- Hazardous to humans and domestic animals.
5. Educate yourself and your family.
Join the EWG and access its EWG Cleaners Database Hall of Shame. Visit www.ewg.org to follow the analysis of individual products you’re using in your home.
As a mother, I am aware how hard it is to eliminate these products from the home all at once. First, aim to eliminate fragranced products. They are the easiest to recognize. From there, gradually remove harmful products from your living quarters.