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Avoid using these 5 household detergents to keep your family safe

Respiratory diseases, nervous system and digestive system problems, liver damage – a significant part of the cleaning products used in our household are strong chemicals, their regular use can have serious health risks. And to make things worse, many of the household detergents pose a particular risk to children and the elderly. Here is a list of detergents you better not have in your home.

1. Air Fresheners

Aerosol, spray, fragrance gel, scented gel, scented mini pillows, fragrance sticks, electrical appliance, clip-on car perfume, scented candle – if you look at the offer of one of the largest supermarket chains at random, you can choose from a total of 165 fragrance products.

There are two problems with using air fresheners. First, you feel that you have done enough to keep the air clean and so you won’t open the window. On top of that, the fragrance product that you use will release volatile substances to the air – substances that are harmful to health.

When using air fresheners, more than 100 different types of chemicals can be released into the air, including the much-mentioned volatile organic compound (VOC). These compounds are liquids or solids and become gaseous or emit gases at room temperature. They can cause adverse health effects such as eye, nose or throat irritation, headaches, incoordination, nausea. Also, they may increase the risk of asthma and damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some of the VOCs have been shown to be, others are suspected to be carcinogenic.

Air fresheners pose a risk to those particularly who spend much of their time at home and are therefore more likely to be exposed to chemicals found in household dust. Typically, the most vulnerable are the elderly, the babies and the mothers.

In addition to VOCs, Semi Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) such as phthalates pose a hazard too.

The most problematic, allergenic fragrances (such as linalool and limonene) must be indicated separately on the labels of the products. These fragrances affect our mood, probably the condition of our respiratory system, and in addition to their possible irritating effect, they have a bad impact on the immune system and the circulatory system, plus they might reduce work performance.

Tips

✓  Open the window regularly.

✓  Indoor plants improve air quality.

✓  Use dried plants such as lavender, lemon peel or mint for fragrance.

✓  Alternatively, with a few drops of essential oil you can achieve the desired effect.

2. Scented products

Other products such as scented detergents, laundry detergents, rinse aids, fragrant tissue paper and toilet paper may also contain fragrances that cause health problems.

The problems these items cause are best known to people suffering from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nevertheless, they have a bad impact on the well-being of many healthy people too. Not only respiratory diseases can occur when using scented products, but headache and other nervous and digestive problems too, as well as skin irritation.

Tips

✓  It is best for your health and your wallet to opt for the odorless products.

3. Insecticides

As most of you might have heard, our food stuff may contain pesticide residues, and so it is worth paying attention to the source of supply and it is better to go for the organic food items.

The risks of household insecticides are less well-known – but it is pretty horrible if you think about the fact that you disperse poisons at your own home. Incesticides have essentially been developed and manufactured to kill organisms that are “harmful” to humans – so their function is to poison living organisms. Most of them have a harmful effect on humans, as they act on receptors, ion channels and enzymes with a similar structure and function to those found in the human body.

A significant group of insecticides act on nervous system targets and neuromuscular transmission, and these systems work in a very similar way within the animal kingdom, so agents developed against insect targets can be damaging to mammals living with humans (eg. dogs, cats) and they can also be toxic to humans.

The effects of insecticides can range from mild irritation, malaise and, in the case of prolonged exposure, to severe nervous system, hormonal and cancerous diseases.

Tips

✓  Spider, bug, ant in your apartment? They are harmless. Calm down and do not reach for the poisonous preparations yet. Try to make friends with accidentally lost, harmless arthropods.

✓  Try to keep your uninvited guests physically away with mosquito nets, a fly swatter or a vacuum cleaner.

✓  Pay special attention to the larder – don’t breed moths or weevils! Make sure that you keep a relatively small amount of dry food (pasta, cereals, legumes) at home, to decrease the chances of the moths and weevils settling down.

✓  Sex pheromone sticky traps are available for many insects, limiting the spread of pests without scattering toxins. If necessary, get these instead of the toxic preparations.

4. Chlorine-containing disinfectants

Advertisements suggest that all microorganisms are harmful and must be destroyed with effective poisons in order to live in a healthy, clean home. Yet it has been known for decades that sterile conditions inhibit the strengthening of our immune system and promote the development of allergies. In fact, much of the microflora on our skin, possibly on objects, is beneficial to the human body.

Among the disinfectants, those containing chlorine are probably the most dangerous ones, with sodium hypochlorite as their active ingredient. (This substance is found, for example, in Hypo, Flóraszept, Domestos and Clorox.) During their use, highly toxic chlorinated compounds can be formed and – mixed with an acidic detergent – toxic chlorine gas may be released, which is highly corrosive. It irritates the eyes in small amounts and, if used in in larger quantities, can cause lung damage. Before using the above-mentioned detergents, always read and follow the instructions. On the packaging and data sheets of such products you will see warning such as “Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.”, “Wear protective gloves / protective clothing / eye protection / face protection.”, “Very toxic to aquatic life”. Yet these products, without exception, go into the toilet (after mopping up the floor) or into the drain (from the washing machine), and then it all ends up in our natural living waters, damaging the fauna living there.

Tips

✓  Think twice before you disinfect. A simple vinegar wash might just do.

✓  Go for the gentle detergent with a green active ingredient or choose the DIY alternative.

✓  Finally, if disinfection is absolutely necessary and you choose to use a strong chemical, use the product in the smallest possible quantity and according to the instructions.

cleaning

5. Toilet disinfectants

Fragrances and bleaches squeezed in toilet cisterns, squeezed from bottles or placed under the rim are completely unnecessary and have a harsh and detrimental effect on our environment.

Their active ingredients are typically strong poisons not only for humans but also for aquatic life. Toilet cleaners contain phenol (carbolic acid) for example, which damages the respiratory and circulatory systems and has been shown to be carcinogenic. The best-known brands, which can be found on supermarket shelves, are petrochemical-based and contain petrochemical fragrances and corrosive acids as well as antibacterial disinfectants (e.g., the potentially carcinogenic triclosan).

Tips

✓  Using the toilet brush is a brilliant way to remove any kind of fresh dirt easily and effectively.

✓  You can easily treat liming with vinegar (for food).

✓  Unpleasant odour in the toilet? Simply open the window.


Green&Safe LIFE-styles is supported by the European Union LIFE program and co-funded by the Hungrian Ministry of Agriculture. Project ID: ENV GIE HU000622 Green & Safe LIFE-styles.

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