Study: Household cleaners could cause asthma, cancer

Green-friendly labels don't mean non-toxic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More than half of popular cleaning products contain toxic materials that can cause anything from asthma to cancer, a new study found.

Researchers at the Environmental Working Group compared the ingredients listed on the labels of 2,000 cleaning products with information from toxicity databases from government, industry and academic sources. The results are published in their Cleaners Hall of Shame, which lists the most dangerous products and the effects of the most commonly used chemicals.

Dr. Cynthia Anderson, a radiation oncologist with Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, said the stronger the cleaner, the bigger the risk.

"Because they can dissolve all these stains, they can also dissolve and be absorbed into our skin or into our lungs," Anderson said.  

Children are at the highest risk for poisoning, Anderson said. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, about 90 percent of poisonings happen at home and more than half of toxic exposure cases involve children under five.

Anderson said the chemicals could be in your system even if you don't notice an immediate reaction.

"You can have blood tests done that can actually pick up some levels of these chemicals in your bloodstream, just on a regular day," Anderson said.

Consumers are advised to study the labels of so-called green-friendly products that claim to be "safe" and "non-toxic."

According to EWG, "Ingredient labels are mandatory for food, cosmetics and drugs – but not for cleaning products. Manufacturers aren't required to disclose all ingredients in their cleaners and many don't, including some green cleaners makers."

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