Bisphenol A found in common cleaning products

Carolyn Morris
Shine On
April 4, 2012

It's time to come clean on cleaning chemicals. As we wonder why so many people are getting cancer, and why girls are starting puberty earlier than ever, many are pointing their fingers to all those shifty chemicals we're exposed to on a daily basis.

But we don't seem to have enough fingers.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives looked for endocrine disrupting and asthma-linked chemicals, in over 200 standard household products.

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And they found lots. Fifty-five chemicals that could be damaging to our health, to be exact. The most troubling among them are bisphenol A, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan -- some of which are thought to mimic hormones in the body and even suspected of causing some types of cancers.

"These results show we are exposed to a wide range of chemicals of concern in everyday products, and the chemicals aren't always listed on the labels," Robin Dodson, study author and research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute tells HealthDay.

"It seems these chemicals are not being adequately tested before being put on the shelf," she says. The products they looked at included laundry detergents, soaps, cleaners, air fresheners, and even things like vinyl shower curtains.

In response to the new study, industry representatives have stepped up to defend the products, chemicals and all.

"They are alarming consumers unnecessarily," American Cleaning Institute spokesman Brian Sansoni tells HealthDay. He argues there isn't evidence that the typical use of the products are leading to health issues.

But does the lack of hard, unequivocal evidence mean we should look the other way?

"It would take a very long time to resolve all of the scientific uncertainty surrounding the different ways that these chemicals could impact human health and the environment in the long term," says Lisa Gue, environmental health policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation.

"And that's frankly a risk that we don't want to take."

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In Canada, companies are not mandated to list all of the ingredients in their household cleaning products, something Gue, wants changed.

"People are hungry for this information," she says. "The reality is that we are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis throughout our entire lives. The war on germs is backfiring,if we're using toxic chemicals to clean our houses.""

The Suzuki Foundation just launched a campaign and a survey about those unsavory toxins in our cleaning closets. And Gue is hoping to see even more than lists of ingredients on cleaning products.

"I'd like to see more information about the hazards that those ingredients pose," she says, "so that the average consumer doesn't need a degree in toxicology to be able to pick a safer product."

Gue says it's important to look for certifications such as EcoLogo or Ecocert when shopping for cleaning products -- because words like "natural" can mean pretty much anything.

Also, she argues, a lot can be done with simple baking soda and vinegar. You can even make your own products with these recipes from the foundation's Queen of Green blog.

"In many cases we don't need the disinfecting power that would be necessary for an operating theatre," says Gue.

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