Household hazardous materials are products containing toxic chemicals. Any product labeled with the words CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER, POISON, FLAMMABLE, CORROSIVE or REACTIVE is considered a household hazardous material and requires special storage and handling.
Besides, these chemicals are doing more than they were intended to. In 1989, and again in 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to the conclusion that "the air we breathe inside our homes could be as much as 5 times more polluted than the air we breathe outside."
If that was back in 1995, one may only wonder how much the indoor air is polluted nowadays. And, "exposures to air pollutants cause health risks" - affirms the California Environmental Protection Agency.
When a handful of new studies raised the concern that consumer products may be contributing to indoor pollution levels in ways that were not fully understood, the Air Resources Board (ARB) at the California Environmental Protection Agency commissioned William Nazaroff, a professor of Environmental Engineering at University of California-Berkeley, and his team to study the problem.
The ARB asked Nazaroff and his team to focus their work in two areas: an investigation of toxic air contaminants in household cleaning products and air fresheners, especially a class of chemicals known as ethylene-based glycol ethers; and an examination of the chemistry that occurs when such products are used indoors - in particular, products that contain a reactive group of chemicals called terpenes.
Four years in the making, the team produced a 330-page report. The cost of the study was $446,865.
"While effective cleaning can improve the healthfulness of indoor environments, this work shows that use of some consumer cleaning agents can yield high levels of air pollutants, including glycol ethers, formaldehyde, and particulate matter. Persons involved in cleaning, especially those who clean occupationally or often, might encounter excessive exposures to these pollutants owing to cleaning product emissions," the study reported.
Cleaning your home with these household cleaners loaded with toxic chemicals can indeed be very hazardous to your health.
There are literally hundreds of consumer products on store shelves that contain hazardous ingredients. Paint, hardware, automotive and garden retailers are the most frequent sources of such products, but the local supermarket or pharmacy stocks products with hazardous ingredients that we use right where we sleep, eat and spend our time in our homes.
Lo and Behold - The Household Cleaners.
Common cleaning products could be far more dangerous than the germs they attempt to kill. Often, we forget that our largest body organ, our skin, absorbs everything it contacts. In addition, many "cleaners" release their toxins as fumes which you then breathe in. And, chemicals that you are exposed to can be detected within a minute in all organs of your body.
Is there something we are not being told about all those household cleaners that accumulate under the kitchen sink? Seems as though there is a lot about that "All Purpose Cleaner" under the sink that we are not being told.
According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (2007) - "The average American uses 25 gallons of toxic and hazardous chemicals in their home per year. Of the 17,000 chemicals found in household cleaners, only 3 out of 10 have been tested for their effects on human health."
"People assume that it's on the shelf it's been tested, it's safe. And you can't make that assumption all the time. You can't. Not with the regulatory framework we have in place," - Kathy Cooper of the Canadian Environmental Law Association points out.
Drain cleaners, toilet cleaners and oven cleaners, for example are some of the most toxic products you use in your home.
"These are products that women are using in their households on a daily basis" said Alexandra Gorman, a director of Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE), a Montana-based nonprofit group working to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in the home.
The group wants to help people become aware of chemicals they might want to avoid.
According to data gathered by WVE, "Certain chemicals used in common cleaning products have been associated with reproductive harm such as alterations in sexual behavior, decreases in fertility, menstrual changes, changes in the onset of puberty, cancers of reproductive organs, miscarriage, premature birth, and other effects."
The sheer number of toxic chemicals in our homes can be scary. Most people assume that the ingredients in their household cleaners have been government tested, but there may be danger lurking under your kitchen sink.