Is it safe? Harmful Chemicals in Everyday Cleaning Products

It has become increasingly clear that many cleaning products are sources of exposure to dangerous chemicals. New research into the ingredients of common consumer products has shown that many contain a myriad of harmful chemicals. In a study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology,1 researchers investigated consumer products and compared their ingredients against chemicals listed under California’s Proposition 65.

What is prop 65?

Prop 65 was passed in 1986 to force manufacturers to label and add warnings to products that contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer and birth defects sold in the state of California. The list of chemicals listed under Prop 65 has become a standard for identifying dangerous chemicals found in consumer products. However, it is important to understand that Prop 65 only enforces freedom of information. It does not actually regulate the use of these chemicals in products. The authors write, “Consumers often believe—wrongly—that the products they buy have been comprehensively assessed for safety before they are sold.” Additionally, if you don’t live in California, these products might not be labeled. According to the study, common products can contain dangerous chemicals such as methanol, toluene, ethylene glycol, and formaldehyde—all of which can pose long-term health effects.

Woman cleaning window sill with heavy rubber gloves demonstrating that common cleaners contain harmful chemicals

The Results

The researchers found that many cleaning products (in addition to other consumer products) contained many of these known toxins. The authors write that they, “identified 30 product categories likely to cause significant exposure to these especially toxic VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds].” They also write that chemical exposure varies depending on occupation. Some people are at higher risk than others. They state, “this analysis confirms that workplaces can expose people to a range of Prop 65-listed VOCs, and many of these exposures are unlikely to be fully addressed by workplace protection laws or hazard communication programs.”

In their conclusion, the researchers found that 11 top tier Prop 65-listed chemicals are widely used in consumer products, and that these chemicals pose a threat to the health and safety of consumers, works, and the population at large. Because labeling is not always clear on packaging, and ingredient lists on chemical cleaners are absent, it is always safer to go with a chemical free alternative.

Moving Away From Chemicals

Green Science Solutions (GSS) specializes in providing chemical free and safe alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners for both commercial and personal use. For example, solutions like aqueous ozone leave no residue on surfaces and revert to water and oxygen after use. Many unwanted exposures are the result of chemical residue and aerosolized particles left over from chemical cleaners. GSS is here to help you transition to a safer and healthier way to clean.

  1. Kristin E. Knox, Robin E. Dodson, Ruthann A. Rudel, Claudia Polsky, & Megan R. Schwarzman (2023) Identifying Toxic Consumer Products: A Novel Data Set Reveals Air Emissions of Potent Carcinogens, Reporductive Toxicants, and Developmental Toxins, Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c07247
Posted in Article, Cleaning and Disinfecting, Consumer, GSS News.