Hidden Hazards: Expose on Household Toxins

Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose. Some cause acute, or immediate, hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic or long-term effects such as cancer. When we use chemicals to clean our home, they linger in the air and we breathe them in. Chemicals in cleaning products can also enter our bodies by absorption through the skin or through ingestion of household dust and chemical residues left on dishes and cutlery. Additionally, when cleaning products are flushed down the drain, they can have a serious impact on aquatic ecosystems.

Butoxyethanol (2-BE, also known as butyl cellosolve)

  • A skin and eye irritant also associated with blood disorders.
  • Found in: glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers.



  • Vapours may irritate the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs.
  • Found in: window cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, oven cleaners, stainless-steel cleaners, car polish, and all-purpose cleaners.


Coal tar dyes

  • May be contaminated with trace amounts of heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead. Synthetic dyes may cause cancer and canharm the nervous system.
  • Found in: most types of cleaning products.


MEA / DEA / TEA(monoethanalomine, diethanolamine,triethanolamine)

  • Can react with nitrites to form carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Found in: liquid laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, car wash products,degreasers, dish soap, oven cleaners, and glass or surface cleaners.width=281








Fragrance chemicals

  • More than 3000 chemicals are used in fragrance mixtures. Many are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms.
  • Found in: most types of cleaning products.



  • Suspected endocrine disrupters associated with reproductive defects.
  • Found in: most types of cleaning products.


Nonylphenol ethoxylates

  • Has been shown to stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells and cause adverse reproductive effects in fish and other aquatic organisms.
  • Found in: liquid laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers, and car wash products.


Silica powder

  • Rated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a known human carcinogen. This natural ingredient (made from finely ground quartz) is hazardous as a dust if inhaled.
  • Found in: abrasive cleaning powders.



  • Toxic and a suspected endocrine disrupter that can mimic or interfere with the function of hormones.
  • Found in: dish soaps and disinfectants, as well as a wide range of other household products. Look for it listed as an “active ingredient” in antibacterial products.



Source: davidsuzuki.com, organicconsumers.org