There are a variety of household products with different uses, such as air fresheners and specialized cleaners. Most people can name at least a few common household products, and they’re obviously dangerous to ingest. But with the increase in health-consciousness, consumers are becoming aware of the chemicals within these products. Harmful chemicals are released into their home’s air, polluting it and increasing allergies and asthma or otherwise affecting their health. Here are 5 common household products with ingredients that bring down your indoor air quality.
1. Air Fresheners
Consider that so-called air fresheners don’t actually do anything to purify the air but simply fill the air with fragrances to mask odors. While the fragrances affect only sensitive people, they also contain binders that are toxic to everyone. Common toxins in air fresheners are phthalates, formaldehyde, and naphthalene.
These toxins have a cumulative effect, meaning they increase in the body over time. Phthalates may affect hormones and reproductive health, particularly in children, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. They increase the risk of developing reproductive abnormalities and other birth defects in unborn babies. Finally, they also increase the risk of developing asthma, allergies, diabetes, and cancer.
On the other hand, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can also cause infections, nosebleeds, asthma, and other respiratory issues. Also, women who use plug-in air fresheners during gestation are more likely to give birth to babies with serious lung infections and the risk of developing asthma.
Hazardous chemicals in air fresheners don’t stop at aerosols and plug-ins, however. Scented candles release formaldehyde and produce more soot than unscented ones. Most are made of paraffin wax, which contains other VOCs such as toluene and benzene, both known carcinogens. Many also have lead-core wicks, which can lead to heavy metal or lead poisoning.
If you use air fresheners, don’t despair. The health risks are true for repeated use over the long-term. There are ways to truly freshen indoor air without resorting to hazardous chemicals. Consider opening a window the next time you’re tempted to reach for the aerosol can. If that’s not enough, there are DIY and commercial air diffusers that use essential oils. You can also create your own potpourri.
2. Oven Cleaners
The corrosive alkalis within oven cleaners have serious effects on your gastrointestinal tract if ingested or inhaled. Unfortunately, avoiding inhaling these products is somewhat difficult. This is because they will linger around in the air once you’ve sprayed them, even if you think you’ve cleaned off all the stinky reside from the oven walls.
So, what’s the alternative? A couple of natural cleaning formulas use a paste of baking soda and water or baking soda and white vinegar. The baking soda works as an abrasive, and the vinegar is acidic. Plus, both of them deodorize your oven to remove any lasting food odors.
3. Non-stick Cookware
The convenience of the non-stick properties of cookware with Teflon and other non-stick coatings has negative health effects, including cancer. These non-stick coatings are either a type of metal or (as in the case of Teflon) synthetic resins. Both of these boast the ability to prevent food from getting stuck and damaging cookware. However, they eventually can and do peel off; they also release into the air as gases when heated.
Teflon can kill pet birds when heated at high temperatures. And since so many people use non-stick cookware, that means the toxins are not only present in their food and blood, but also in their household’s dust and local water supplies.
Safe alternatives are available, even if they’re not as easy to clean up or require more maintenance. Non-toxic cookware includes cast iron, which has the added benefit of being non-stick when properly seasoned.
The infamous “grandma’s remedy” to fight against the presence of moths in clothing doesn’t just have an off-putting smell. Its strange odor is that of naphthalene, a chemical used in many products and industries. Also called moth flakes, white tar, and tar camphor, the chemical has been found to destroy red blood cells. In animals, it has also shown to be carcinogenic. Just breathing the vapors from clothes that have been stored with mothballs exposes you to naphthalene.
For a safe and natural way to freshen your clothes, try storing herbs. Lavender, rosemary, mint, and eucalyptus not only make your clothes smell great, but they also deter moths.
5. Toilet Cleaners
It’s a toss-up between whether toilet cleaners more frequently contain bleach or ammonia, but two things are clear: Both release hazardous fumes that irritate the nose, throat, lungs, and eyes of pets, children, and people. Both combine to form toxic chlorine gas, a chemical weapon. Don’t ever mix them, and if you use one after another, you could get a similar (although milder) reaction.
Bleach is known for its whitening and sterilizing properties while ammonia cleans glass, gold, and silver jewelry. Inhaling fumes from either has a corrosive effect on your respiratory system and mucous membranes, leading to stinging and burning sensations. But what are the effects of prolonged exposure?
Bleach increases asthma symptoms and causes burns in the bronchial tubes and lungs. It can also cause damage to the digestive system, skin, and eyes due to chlorine poisoning. Ammonia’s effects are a little different, causing a condition known as olfactory fatigue (where you can’t discern smells) and, at high enough levels, asphyxiation. It can also cause burns to the respiratory tract with both short and long-term damage.
Improving Your Home’s Air Quality
The most important step to cut down on pollution in your home’s air and avoid any negative health effects is to get rid of as many of the hazardous aforementioned household products as possible. Look up the chemicals in other household products you have and research their effects, as you might have to get rid of them as well.
If you must keep them due to their specialized uses, keep them away from the main areas of the home that encounter traffic. Also, safely lock them up or otherwise keep them inaccessible to children and pets. Be sure to check the expiration dates; over time, any household products will degrade and turn into more dangerous chemicals.
Fortunately, due to consumer demand for safer products, a market exists for household products free from VOCs and other harmful chemicals. Check out the available alternatives to replace common household products with air-friendly ones. One thing to note, however, is that ingredients lists are not required on the bottles for household cleaners, even so-called “green” or “natural” ones.
You don’t have to be discouraged, though, if you find any without an ingredients list. There are simple, natural alternatives that most people have around the house that you can use for cleaning, air freshening, deodorizing, washing clothes, and unclogging drains. These include baking soda, vinegar, Borax, soap powder, lemon, and hot water.
The next step is to compare the difference between your home’s air before and after getting rid of the household products and using alternatives. Indoor air pollution often means that your home’s air will be worse than the air outside. Get the air circulating with fans and open windows if possible.
Professionals Can Help
The level of comfort you feel with your home’s air depends on its temperature, humidity, and purity. It would be great if a lack of odor was an indicator of good quality, but that’s not always the case.
If your home’s air quality is still low, you’re concerned about sudden changes in the air, or you just want to know how to take your air quality from good to excellent, contact Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating today for service in San Antonio and surrounding areas. We specialize in HVAC system inspection and air quality products to help you get fresh, clean air so that you can breathe easy again.