Cleaning with toxins?

Cleaning with toxins?

When we look at two of the key factors in modern, chronic lifestyle diseases, there are really two causes. Not enough of something or too much of something.

When we look at two of the key factors in modern, chronic lifestyle diseases, there are really two causes. Not enough of something or too much of something.

We run into problems of not enough when we are not ingesting, digesting or absorbing the nutrients we need to for our cells to function and our metabolic pathways to carry out their business.  We also run into problems of too much of something when we ingest or absorb (through our gut, lungs or skin) chemicals and compounds that interfere with our cellular function and metabolic pathways.  Substances that create this interference are what we’re referring to as toxins.  The problems of toxins are exacerbated by not having enough of the nutrients we need to process and detoxify them.  A double whammy, or vicious cycle, if you will.

It’s not a question of whether you are toxic. It’s a question of how toxic are you? The planet is, very unfortunately toxic. The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine and many other top-tier medical journals are showing us that the concentration of toxins in our bodies are correlated with chronic disease… and chronic disease is on the rise.

Just a very small selection of the conditions that household toxin exposure is linked to in medical literature:

  • Unexplained infertility (in mend and women)
  • Low sperm count (or slow swimmers, sometimes with 2 heads instead of one!)
  • autism (e.g from pesticides and heavy metals)
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • ADHD (from heavy metals, especially lead, and food colourings)
  • cancers (particularly from hormone-mimicking chemicals such as pthalates – the things that make your household / car / body cleaning products smell the way they do, plus lots of plastics)
  • lack of concentration
  • low energy, depression
  • anxiety
  • obesity
  • autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Poor immune function

Did you know?

Your indoor environment is likely twice as polluted as your outdoor environment. More than 80,000 chemicals are introduced into the world each year.  Environmental researchers say the average household contains 62 toxic chemicals.  These chemicals, while only in small amounts in individual cleaning products have an accumulative effect on us as we are repeatedly exposed to them.  From phthalates in synthetic fragrances in everything from laundry powder, dish detergent, air fresheners (and yes in most personal care products too), to triclosan (antibacterial detergents and toothpastes) and ammonia – many of these very commonly used chemicals have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity.

While some products can cause immediate risk on inhalation (such as wheezing or headaches) or skin contact (such as burns or irritation) the biggest concerns are over long term repeated exposure.  Chronic exposure results in an accumulative effect, or body burden, as chemicals are gradually stored in body tissues.  Many of the toxins in household cleaning products are fat soluble and so get stored in fatty tissue, where they begin interrupt functions of the cell, or they interfere with endocrine (hormone function) resulting in systemic toxic effects.

In countries like Australia and the United States ingredients are presumed safe until proven toxic, and to prove a substance toxic requires a lot of bureaucracy.   Unfortunately it can takes years, or even decades for enough research to come out on individual ingredients, let alone combinations of ingredients.  From the little research that has been done on combinations of toxins, we know the trend is that combinations have a synergistic effect.  That is, the effect of multiple low dose chemicals have far greater impact than the sum of the individual components.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few of the most common toxins found in household cleaning products (which will give you more than enough reason to #switchtosafer products):


Phthalates are developmental and endocrine disrupters, meaning they can mimic the action of some hormones, most commonly oestrogen, and in doing so cause symptoms and diseases of oestrogen excess.  Research has shown lack of masculine play in young boys, reduced sperm count in men, unexplained infertility (in men and women),  endometriosis early onset puberty in young girls.  Studies indicate that phthalate exposure during pregnancy can result in miscarriage.  Oestrogen dependant cancers are also linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Recent studies suggest that phthlatate exposure in infants alters male reproductive development and that infants are the most vulnerable in habitants of a home containing phthalates due to their immature metabolic systems.

Other recent studies show that phthalates influence children’s mental, psychomotor and behavioural development and the risk of developing early childhood eczema.  Children with autism and lower vocabulary and IQ score have been shown to have higher levels of phthalate in their system.

Further studies show that phthalates are associated with obesity, increased biomarkers for inflammation and oxidative stress and the development of diabetes.  Toxins such as phthlates that cause weight gain are referred to as obesogens.

Where are Phthalates found?

If any of your cleaning (or personal care) products contains the word “fragrance” or “parfum” in the ingredients list, you can safely bet that your product contains phthalates.  These are almost always found in laundry detergents, dish detergents, fabric softeners, surface cleaners, cream cleansers, floor cleaners and more. Other than use in synthetic fragrances, phthalates are also found in building materials, food packaging, furnishings and even toilet paper and facial tissues.

How to switch to safer:

Buy natural cleaning products that are either fragrance free or fragranced with 100% natural essential oils (not fragrant oils and not “natural fragrances”).  Buy recycled or sugar cane derived toilet paper which is unbleached, undyed and fragrance free.  Avoid using plastics in any way wherever possible.  Ditch the aerosol sprays, reed or stick infusers (sticks in a bottle of fragranced oil), scented candles and plug in room air fresheners (really air polluters!).  To keep your air fresh, keep windows and doors open, clean surfaces with a damp cloth and use organic essential oils in a diffuser to naturally fragrance.

Perchloroethylene (or PERC)

Also known as Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a prevalent chemical in drinking water, dry cleaning, spot removers, paint strippers, metal degreasers.  Human exposure is mainly by inhalation of vapours, by direct contact with the skin, or by ingesting contaminated water or food.  PERC / PCE is a known carcinogen, particularly breast cancer in women (with the highest rates among women working in dry cleaning businesses) and lung cancer.  It is toxic to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver and can cause visual alterations such as poorer colour discrimination.  Toxicity symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, vomiting and nausea, signs of liver or kidney failure and pulmonary oedema.  It causes irritation the eyes and mucosal lining of the nose and severe exposure can lead to behavioural alteration and even coma and death.

Evidence shows that PERCs are developmental neurotoxicants, frequently expressed as alterations in motor function or cognitive abilities.

(p.s. PERC is also used to fumigate grains!!).

How to Switch to Safer

Avoid clothing that needs dry cleaning.  Instead of taking curtains, drapes and clothing to dry cleaners, taken them instead to wet cleaners who use water-based technology rather than chemical solvents.    The EPA considers liquid carbon dioxide as an environmentally preferable alternative to toxic dry-cleaning chemicals.  If you must dry clean anything, make sure it gets well aired out for as long as possible before bringing it into the house.  For spot removers, look for the many environmentally friendly non-toxic brands now on the market or rub undiluted castile soap directly on stains before popping the item in the wash.


Triclosan is an aggressive anti-bacterial agent that is known to create drug-resistant bacteria – not a great scenario when you’re really in need of an effective antibiotic.  In our bug phobic society we’ve been pushed antibacterial everything – soaps, dish detergents, surface cleaners, air fresheners, hand washes, hand sanitisers, toothpaste and more.  A trend that has been rapidly contributing to drug-resistant infections.  More recent research is showing that triclosan is also an endocrine disrupter and a possible carcinogen and dangerous levels are also being found in natural waterways effecting ecosystems and algae growth.

How to switch to safer.

Avoid using antibacterial soaps, detergents, aerosoles and air fresheners.  If you really need to use a hand sanitiser use natural brands that are chemical free (Divine by Therese Kerr produces one that has been hospital tested and is 99.9% effective!).


Ammonia vapours cause irritation to the skin, eyes, throat and lungs. Those with asthma are most sensitivie to ammonia, which can also cause liver and kidney damage.  One of the significant problems with ammonia is that it’s combination with other chemicals can make it more toxic.  Combining ammonia with bleach for example produces poisonous chloramine gas.

Ammonia is found in window cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, oven cleaners, stainless steel cleaners, car polish and all-purpose cleaners (a popular ingredient in these products due to the fact it leaves no streaks).

How to switch to safer

For cleaning surfaces like glass, mirrors and stainless steel, use scrunched up newspaper or a microfiber cloth.  Vodka also works well to get a streak free finish, and you can fragrance with your choice or organic essential oils.  You can also get great window and all-purpose cleaners from health and environmentally conscious companies making nontoxic products.


Chlorine has both acute and chronic health impacts.  Acute impacts from inhalation or skin contact include wheezing, asthma, irritation to nasal passages, headaches and skin irritation.  The long term affects are more serious though.  Chlorine is a strong antibacterial and so effects our gut flora populations (especially in drinking water) and it known to disrupt thyroid function and is highly toxic to aquatic life.

2-Butoxyethnol (2BE / butyl cellosolve)

2BE is a skin and eye irritant and is associated with blood disorders and reproductive problems.  Cleaning products are our primary source of exposure as it is found in glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, car washes, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners and rust removers.

How to switch to safer.

Switch to natural, safe cleaning product brands.  Just use water as your windscreen wiper fluid – no need for additional detergents.

Sodium Hydroxide (also known as Lye and Caustic Soda)

Sodium hydroxide is extremely corrosive and can irritate, ulcerate or even cause burns to the skin, eyes and lungs.  Sore throat from sodium hydroxide exposure can last for days.  It’s found in oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, disinfectants, drains openers and toilet cleaners.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

A skin irritant and carcinogen, these compounds are often first on the ingredients list of any product that foams (it is a foaming agent).  It’s in kitchen and laundry detergents, toilet cleaners and much more (including shampoos and body washes).

Did you also know?

Toxins don’t just impact persons, but generations. The average adult has roughly 700 different contaminants present in the body. The average infant is born with more than 200 toxins.

What can you do?

Switch to safer options.  Whether you clean your house with a damp cloth, or some vinegar and lemon juice, or perhaps a little vodka – safe cleaning methods are both very effective and very cheap.  I find it a total contradiction that to clean a house for most people means to make it more toxic – i.e. more unclean!  If you do want to use cleaning products there is a wonderful wealth of products available now from health and environmentally conscious brands.  And for times you cannot avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, learn how to support your major organs of elimination – the lungs, liver, bowels, kidney and skin.

Following a home chemical detox people often note:

  • feeling brighter and lighter
  • clearer skin,
  • Less (or no) headaches and migraines
  • Less hayfever and allergies
  • reduced (or eliminated) joint pains and inflammation,
  • improved eye sight
  • ability to achieve and maintain ideal weight
  • improved clarity of mind
  • Improvement in menstrual cycle regularity, pain, PMS.
“Detox isn’t a fad.  It’s a mandate.  We must improve the ratio of gene enhancing to gene compromising exposures”.  Dr Kelly Brogan MD.






http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671233/ (mammary gland carcinogens)





By h

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