Have you ever stopped to think about the chemicals in a product like drain opener, strong enough to dissolve clogs often made up of hair? Chemicals in household cleaning products that leave your sink sparkling may also be doing damage to your health. If you’ve ever had to open a window to avoid a headache from fumes or cope with skin irritation caused by direct contact with a cleaner, you already know that there’s a problem. But when you’re in a big-box retail store stocked to the rafters, it can be hard to know how to buy non-toxic products or determine which ones pose the greatest risks — few have detailed labels that spell out the names of the chemicals they contain.
Thanks to ongoing research, we know that some of the most dangerous are ingredients derived from ethoxylates. These chemical compounds, which include bisphenol-A (BPA), have been linked to cancer and disruptions in normal hormone function. According to a study in the journal Chemosphere, the compounds can find their way into the human brain, liver, and fatty tissues.
“Hormonally active compounds such as bisphenol-A and some artificial fragrances are compounds that can mimic or otherwise alter the body’s hormone system,” explains Robin Dodson, ScD, a research scientist with the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass. “Evidence from laboratory and human studies suggests that these chemicals can affect developing reproductive and nervous systems, metabolism, and cancer.”