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Throw Household Products Off the Scent

Volatile chemicals in consumer products such as air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets may be hazardous.

January 4, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Avani Tanya

Transcript

In addition to meat, exposure to common household chemicals may exacerbate or induce allergies, asthma and eczema. Researchers at Harvard and all around the world collected air samples from where children slept and demonstrated for the first time that the bedroom concentration of propylene glycol and glycol ethers was significantly associated with an elevated risk of multiple allergic symptoms, runny nose, and eczema. This class of chemical compounds is found in cleaning fluids, paint, pesticides, PVC pipes and varnishes, and may be one of the reasons we’ve seen an increase in these kinds of disease around the world over the last few decades.

Recently, researchers put a few consumer products to the test: air fresheners, a laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets, each with annual sales over $100 million dollars. Six products; nearly a hundred volatile chemicals identified, though none were listed on the labels, it usually just says something like fragrance. And ten of the chemicals they found are regulated as toxic or hazardous, with three officially classified as hazardous air pollutants.

For example, the fabric softener they tested. On the label it just says biodegradable fabric softening agents. And it even smells like mom when she leans in for a good-night kiss. But this is what they really found: a very long list of hazardous chemicals, including the carcinogenic hazardous air pollutant acetaldehyde.

What about if you just stick to the naturally scented products? Even products advertised as green, natural, or organic emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones. For example a soap boasting pure essential oils and organic tea infusions also contained all of these.

Yeah but what if you somehow know for certain it’s all just natural— like the limonene, that’s a real phytochemical found in real citrus. Until, it photo-oxidizes with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde.

When it comes to consumer products, the best smell is no smell.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

To help out on the site please email <a
href= “mailto:volunteer@nutritionfacts.org”>volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos which address allergies and asthma. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

For some more context, see my blog post: Mushrooms and Immunity

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos which address allergies and asthma. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/kaodjs1/ kaodjs1

    I’d heard that scented products are generally “bad,” but the evidence put together here is so compelling that I’m buying unscented products for our home for the first time. Surprisingly, I am not missing the scents like I thought I would. Thank you, Dr. Greger!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/john-s/ John S

    Love the videos! Do you have a suggested list of household products that are “lower offgassing” and safer for our newborn? Thanks for your help Doc.

  • JordanLBray

    For all sorts of home and bath products, many of which you can’t avoid (like soap and toothpaste) the absolute BEST source I’ve found is Environmental Working Group. You can check to see the toxicity of your current products, from make-up to shaving cream, to just about anything else.  Check it out here:  http://www.ewg.org/

    It reminds of this website – informative and user friendly!

  • David Paradine

    Could you post a link to your video regarding cleaning and getting chemicals off vegetables? I know I saw a title regarding this but I’m having no lick finding it. Thanks a lot for all your work.

  • Faith Mayabb

    My daughter has terrible asthma. I have read that increasing her D and balancing the Omega 3 and 6 is a cure-all. This info is backed by studies what are your thoughts on this? Here is the link to the studies: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/06/managing-your-childs-asthma-with-natural-medicine.aspx

    • Trig Trigger

      Dr. Hulda Clark

  • cheerypumpkin

    Hi Dr Greger,
    I have a burning question regarding the cookware we use to cook our food. Apparently some articles I read mention that metals such as nickel, chromium that made up the stainless steel cookware could bleed into our foods when we eat and thus our food is contaminated with toxic carcinogens. May i ask how true is that? As I am a nickel allergic, which is the best cooking hardware to use. Heard of a type called the surgical stainless steel, which is good for cooking as it retains its nutrients more than the others, however it is also made up of higher nickel components. Hope to hear your views on it!