Ladies, if you’ve been looking for a reason to cut back on housecleaning, we might just have your credible excuse: A new study suggests that our everyday household cleaners and air fresheners could contribute to cancer risk.
Published in the Journal of Environmental Health, the study involved more than 1,500 women. Dr. Julia Brody, from the Silent Spring Institute, and her team questioned 787 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 721 who didn’t have cancer about their cleaning habits. They found that overall, those who used a combination of cleaning products were up to 110 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who rarely used them. The biggest culprits? Solid air fresheners and mold-and-mildew-control products-particularly when the air fresheners were regularly replaced, and the mold-and-mildew cleaners used more than once a week, which seemed to double cancer risk.
Researchers caution that though the study is concerning, there could be other explanations for the connection. Because participants reported on their own experiences, data could be biased based on personal beliefs or mistakes in recall-particularly because women diagnosed with breast cancer often try to think about what happened in the past that might have caused it, and may overestimate their use of cleaning products. However, as the researchers write, “Because exposure to chemicals from household cleaning products is a biologically plausible cause of breast cancer and avoidable, associations reported here should be further examined prospectively.”
As you might expect, the American Cleaning Institute says this study goes too far in its conclusions. “Simply put,” they write, “this research is rife with innuendo and speculation about the safety of cleaning products and their ingredients….Unfortunately, this work sheds little light on the real causes of breast cancer.”
This isn’t the first study to talk about dangerous ingredients in household cleaners, however. For example, in 2006, University of California, Berkeley researchers found that when used indoors under certain conditions, many common household cleaners and air fresheners emit toxic pollutants at levels that may lead to health risks.
In addition to mildew removers, other particularly toxic cleansers include corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. These can cause irritation and burning on the skin, in the eyes, and in the throat. Some produce fumes that can be inhaled, and many contain fragrances that can cause headaches, sneezing, and watery eyes, to say the least.
To lower your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in cleaners, when cleaning, open windows; use non-toxic, green products that contain nocarcinogenic ingredients; empty the garbage regularly; avoid synthetic air fresheners (use a diffuser with essential oils or soy candles with essential oil scents); and use indoor plants or air purifiers to help clean the air.
What do you think about toxins in cleaning products? Have you changed your housecleaning habits?
Photo courtesy Bethelicious via Flickr.com.