Cancer: Cleaning products linked to increased risk of cancer and other health disorders

Cancer: Cleaning products linked to increased risk of cancer and other health disorders


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Cleaning products comprise an array of industrial chemicals, including ammonia and bleach. But the toxicity of chemicals vary largely from product to product. According to some health experts, detergents that use fragrances may be some of the worst for our health. In some cases, these products have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

According to recent findings, heavily scented surface cleaners may contain pollutant levels as harmful as a busy urban road used by 28,000 vehicles a day.

The particles identified as toxic are called monoterpenes, which evaporate easily into the air.

But as they’re released, they interact with the ozone, producing pollutant particles known as secondary organic aerosols.

These components are notorious contributors to a number of health complications, such as increased respiratory symptoms, and decreased lung function.

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According to Martin Eddy, Medical herbalist and self-care coach, the bleach used in such products can seriously harm the respiratory tract.

Mr Eddy explained: “A common illness […] caused by bleach is reactive airways dysfunction syndrome.

“The irritant nature of bleach can cause an over-reaction within the lungs, causing asthma-like symptoms. In most cases, this is a temporary affliction.

“However, prolonged exposure to bleach-containing products can cause permanent damage or cause severe complications for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“For this reason, bleach alternatives are always recommended. These include white vinegar, castile soap, or essential oils such as tea tree.”

The scientific community has flagged many products as being respiratory irritants, but health risks have also included cancer.

Monica Wassermann, MD at, said: “Toxic cleaning products used in most homes vary in their harmfulness.”

The experts claim that among the worst for our health are air fresheners, disinfecting products with added fragrances, fabric softeners, antibacterial products, bleaches, sheets dryers toilet or kitchen cleaners and ammonia.

She added: “Most of these products contain artificial fragrances that, when sprayed, can cause skin irritation, respiratory illnesses, eye problems, change in endocrine function, which may result in miscarriages, infertility, certain cancers […].”

The link between cleaning products and increased cancer risk was first established in a 2010 study published in the journal Environmental Health.

The findings suggested cleaning products that included methylene chloride contributed to an increased risk of breast cancer.

What’s more, the irritants are heavily associated with a number of skin conditions, like psoriasis.

Doctor Abha Galati, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics, said: “There are several reasons cleaning products can irritate the skin.

“Firstly, they usually have soap which is a common cause of dry skin. In addition, they often contain strong fragrances and preservatives that are significant irritants.

“Specific ingredients to watch out for include ammonia-based ingredients, bleaches, solvents, and hydrochloric acid.

“These are commonly found in a wide variety of cleaning products including floor, oven and window cleaners.”

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