Ingredients to Avoid in Cleaners

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There are more than 17,000 chemicals in everyday cleaning products of which only approximately one-third have been tested for safety.


A neurotoxin that may cause liver and kidney damage as well as damage a developing fetus. It is also a skin and eye irritant that is most commonly found in spot treatments.
Aerosol Products

Aerosol propellants may contain propane; formaldehyde and methylene chloride which are neurotoxins and reproductive toxins and nitrous oxide.

Undiluted, ammonia is a severe eye and respiratory irritant that can cause severe burning pain, and corrosive damage including chemical burnsand corneal damage. It can also cause kidney and liver damage. Repeated or prolonged exposure to vapors can result in breathing problems. It is found in a wide range of cleaning products.
Bleach: See Sodium Hypochlorite

Diethanolamine (DEA)

Listed as a suspected carcinogen by the State of California, this chemical is a skin and respiratory toxicant and a severe eye irritant. It is used in a wide range of household cleaning products.

A neurotoxin and a moderate eye and skin irritant, that can trigger respiratory distress when vapors are inhaled. D-limonene is the active ingredient in some insecticides. It is used as a solvent in many all-purpose cleaning products, especially “citrus” and “orange” cleaners.

This chemical may cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage, as well as depression of the central nervous system. Inhalation of high concentrations - when cleaning an oven for example - can cause dizziness or even coma. The chemical can also be absorbed through the skin. It is a moderate skin irritant, and a severe eye irritant found in many cleaning products, including oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, laundry pre-soaks, floor strippers and carpet cleaners.

Can severely irritate and burn skin and eyes, and can even cause blindness if splashed in eyes. It can cause liver and kidney damage, and long-term exposure can result in bronchitis. It reacts with nitrites (added as a preservative in some products, or present as a contaminant) to form nitrosomines. Morpholine is a moderate to severe eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant that is used as a solvent in a number of cleaning products, including some furniture polishes and abrasive cleansers.

This registered pesticide is found in mothballs, and some other pest repellants, as well as in deodorizers. It can be transported across the placenta to cause blood damage. It can also cause liver and kidney damage, and corneal damage and cataracts. Skin exposure is especially dangerous to newborns.

A highly volatile registered pesticide in the same chemical class as DDT. It is a suspected carcinogen, and may cause lung, liver and kidney damage. It is used in mothballs and some washroom deodorizers and urinal blocks.
Ethoxylated Nonyl Phenol

Nonyl phenols are hormone disruptors and some contain traces of ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen. They are also eye and skin irritants commonly used in laundry detergents and other cleaning products.

In lab tests, formaldehyde has damaged DNA. Formaldehyde is also a sensitizer, with the potential to cause asthma. Several laboratory studies have shown it to be a central nervous system depressant. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear iirritations, fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. It is used in a wide range of products, including some furniture polishes.

In 1989, the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. Synthetic fragrances are known to trigger breathing problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus. Clinical observations by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes. Fragrance is a common skin irritant.
Methylene Chloride

A neurotoxin and a reproductive toxin that on inhalation, can cause liver and brain damage. It is commonly found in stain removers.
Phosphoric Acid

Extremely corrosive, it can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes. Breathing vapors can make the lungs ache, and it may be toxic to the central nervous system. Found in some liquid dishwasher detergents, metal polishes, some disinfectants, and bathroom cleaners, especially those that remove lime and mildew.
Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate Dihydrate

A severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It may cause liver and gastrointestinal system damage and may be toxic to the central nervous system. It will react with bleach to form poisonous chlorine gas that can cause burning and watering of eyes, as well as burning of the nose and mouth. It is found in some toilet bowl cleaners and deodorizers, as well as industrial detergents and some institutional dishwashing detergents.
Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)

A corrosive chemical, sodium hypochlorite is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, as well as a sensitizer. It is especially hazardous to people with heart conditions or asthma and can be fatal if swallowed. It may be a neurotoxin and toxic to the liver. It is found in a wide range of household cleaners.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

A skin irritant and promoter of an allergic response to other toxins and allergens. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient. SLS can react with ther ingredients to form  nitrosamines.

Exposure to toluene may cause liver, kidney and brain damage. It is also a reproductive toxin, which can damage a developing fetus.

An eye irritant that can cause allergic sensitization and kidney, bladder and central nervous system damage. It is found in specialty solvent cleaners, furniture polish and shoe products.

Xylene can cause loss of memory and has other neurotoxic effects. High exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and even death. It may damage the liver, kidneys and the developing fetus. It is a severe eye and moderate skin irritant commonly found in some spot removers, floor polishes, ironing aids and other products.