Do you read the labels on your favorite household products and cosmetics? A study on many common household items suggests that some may contain chemicals that can trigger asthma, and many of these ingredients are not listed on product labels.
The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that many household products — including common soaps, lotions, cleaners, detergents, sunscreens, air fresheners and cosmetics — may contain chemicals previously linked to asthma. Some of the chemicals that researchers found in U.S. products are even banned in other countries.
The studies tested for phthalates, fragrances, glycol ethers and ethanolamines, among other chemicals. Manufacturers are not required to warn consumers about these chemicals.
During the study, researchers examined more than 200 common household items and detected the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in all but 11 of them. These products included major name-brand products, as well as those labeled as "green," "natural," or "fragrance-free."
“The findings show that consumers who use a typical array of products are exposed to many chemicals with potential health effects,” said Julia Brody, an author of the study and the Executive Director of Silent Spring Institute where the study was conducted. “This study adds to the evidence that safety testing for consumer product chemicals is inadequate and needs to be modernized, and that consumers need better information about exactly what is in the products they use every day. Also, health protections need to consider exposures to mixtures, rather than one chemical at a time.”
Although further research is necessary to determine a direct link between asthma and particular household products, many concerned consumers may wish to reduce their exposure as a precaution. Silent Spring Institute — the research group that conducted the study — recommends the following tips to avoiding potentially harmful chemicals:
- A mixture of water and mild non-antibacterial soap can be used to clean most household surfaces. Water mixed with white vinegar can be used to clean glass.
- Carefully read labels before you buy — even products labeled "green" or "natural" may contain harmful chemicals.
- People with asthma should consider opting for pillow and mattress covers constructed from natural materials instead of vinyl.
- When possible, avoid products containing fragrances, vinyl, or antimicrobial agents such as triclosan or triclocarban.
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