Unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals in popular household cleaners

KPCW reporter, Kimberly Flores, asked UPHE to weigh in on an article in the New York Times about people continuing to use toxic cleaning disinfectants in their homes to kill as many bacteria and viruses as possible. The New York Times reported a 12% increase in consumer spending on cleaning products between 2019 and 2021. 

“Coinciding with that rise were calls to poison control centers for accidental and intentional ingestion of household cleaning products. Of the more than 2 million calls in 2020 and 2021, roughly 8% were due to household cleanser exposure,” Flores wrote. 

Dr. Brian Moench warned in the interview, “If you’re using a toxic substance, and you’re using your hands, you’re likely absorbing some of that into your own body, including ultimately probably into your bloodstream. So that ought to spell some caution on how enthusiastic you are to use these kinds of things.”

Studies have supported concerns about health effects of the chemicals in certain  cleaners, including harming sperm quality, reducing fertility, causing birth defects in mice and higher risks of asthma and C.O.P.D. in people, and have even shown up in breast milk. 

“Chlorine-based products, like bleach, are also commonly used in households as disinfectants. Bleach exposure can irritate eyes, mouths, lungs and skin. And if it’s mixed with ammonia, acids or other cleaners it can produce chlorine gas, which if inhaled can be deadly,” the KPCW piece reports.

“If somebody has a serious infection, like methicillin-resistant staph aureus, or MRSA, then that’s a different situation. But for the average person in their home with average exposure to bacteria and viruses, most of these toxic chemicals used for cleaning, I think, really aren’t necessary at all,” said Moench.

Read the New York Times article here.

Listen to/read the KCPW coverage here.