When selecting products to keep your home clean, don’t forget to read the ingredients label. You’re likely to find a long list of chemicals and if you’re like most people, you have no idea what those long names mean! Here’s a list of what those chemicals are, what they do, and what you can use instead.
1. DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide): The most common active ingredient in insect repellents. DEET has been shown to be toxic to the central nervous system. One-third of all Americans use DEET. Use natural insect repellants, or candles with eucalyptus oil or citronella oil insead.
2. Glyphosate: The main ingredient used in weed killers (Roundup). It has been linked to birth defects, DNA damage, hormone disruption, cancer and neurological disorders. Instead, remove weeds naturally by pulling them out by hand, or pour boiling water, vinegar, or salt over them to kill them.
3. Phthalates: Used in air fresheners, vinyl, wood varnishes and lacquers. Pthalates disrupt the endocrine system, which can cause reproductive and neurological damage. Instead, for a fresh scent, cut up some lemons and leave in a bowl, or boil up some of your favorite dried fruits and spices. Bettter yet, spray some of your favorite essential oils around your home.
4. Bisphenol A (BPA): Found in food containers, baby bottles, plastic bottles and CDs. BPA has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, liver abnormalities, and brain and hormone development problems in fetuses and children. Instead, buy BPA free plastics with recycling codes 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to include BPA or phthalates.
5. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): These emitted gases from certain solids or liquids cause indoor air pollution and are linked to asthma and cancer. They are found in paints, pesticides, lacquers, building materials, office equipment and scented, petroleum-based laundry detergents. Instead, look for “no-VOC” paints and use unscented laundry detergents. If possible, avoid plywood and particleboard, or keep VOCs contained by waterproofing any plywood furniture with safe sealant products.
6. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): These flame retardants are used in furniture and electrical equipment, and have been linked to hormone disruption, developmental deficiencies and cancer. When buying new products, always ask the manufacturers what type of fire retardants they use.
7. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs): Used in non-stick cookware (Teflon) and in stain-resistant fabrics, these PFCs may cause birth defects and cancer. They have been shown to be highly concentrated in the breast milk of nursing mothers. Avoid buying stain resistant furniture and switch to stainless steel or iron cast cookware instead.
8. Perchloroethylene (PCE): A chemical used in dry cleaning that causes toxic effects in the liver, kidney and central nervous system. Switch to green dry cleaners that use chemical free methods.
9. Formaldehyde: An extremely toxic carcinogen found in soaps, detergents, cabinetry and glues. Instead, reduce your exposure by purchasing solid wood furniture. Be sure your pressed wood products are sealed.
10. Triclosan: Found in antibacterial soaps. When triclosans are mixed with chlorinated tap water, the toxic gas chloroform is created. Avoid using antibacterial soaps and switch to a natural alternative instead.
11. Chlorine/Ammonia: Deadly ingredients commonly used in toilet bowl and oven cleaners. Chlorine byproducts have been shown to be 300,000 times more carcinogenic than the chemical pesticide DDT. When cleaning your home, use natural ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and castile soap instead.