The Danger in Household Cleaning Products

Household cleaners and synthetic pesticides may be harming your health.

If you suffer from chronic fatigue, extreme lethargy, breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or symptoms your doctors can’t trace back to any particular cause, the culprit may be a lifetime buildup of toxic chemicals. While your liver is a potent detoxifier, some substances are harder to eliminate than others. Detox formulas found in natural food stores may or may not work. Your best solution is to reduce your exposure to the toxins in everyday products.

Products you use in your kitchen, your bathroom, your garage, and garden can make you sick. They can attack your nervous system, put you at an increased risk for cancer, and contribute to a variety of health problems in you, your children, grandchildren, and pets. In addition, during their manufacturing they produce toxic wastes that further add to environmental pollution, continuing the cycle of toxic exposure. Truly, pesticides harm more than pests.

All Pesticides Are Not Alike
Pesticides include insecticides (which kill insects), herbicides (which destroy unwanted plants), and fungicides (which eliminate fungi). Unfortunately, they also upset the balance of nature and destroy the eco-system. In addition, using pesticides results in stronger strains of pests that are more resistant to pesticides. Synthetic pesticides are more toxic than natural ones, but all can affect your health.

Sherry A. Rogers, MD, has written a number of books about chemical sensitivity and environmental illness. In Tired or Toxic? (Prestige Publishers, 1990) she explains how pesticides get stored in the body and are slowly released into the bloodstream over a period of months.

How Harmful Are They?
If pesticides and cleaning compounds are synthetic, the answer is, possibly very harmful – especially to women. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides may lead to cancer. One classification of pesticides called organochlorines, used commercially in agriculture, act like estrogen and have been linked to breast cancer. Interestingly, 70 percent of women with breast cancer have no biological, hereditary, or behavioral risk factors for the disease. A study in the Lancet (December 18/25, 1999) found a correlation between exposure to organochlorines and pancreatic cancer.

In her book, Chemical Sensitivity (Keats Publishing 1995, $3.95), Dr. Rogers explains that when pesticides break down, they produce substances called “metabolites.” These metabolites are even more toxic than the neurotoxins and metabolic interrupters that kill pests. And because pesticides are so unstable, often they can’t even be identified. “Pesticides are one of the main causes or contributors to the emergence of chemical sensitivity,” she asserts. Research oncologist Daniel Clark, MD, who advises hundreds of medical doctors worldwide on cancer protocols, agrees. He told me that many cancers start with exposure to environmental toxins. His mantra to the doctors who consult with him is: “Detoxify, and support the immune system.” We would add this to Dr. Clark’s mantra: Reduce your exposure to all toxins in your home and yard.

A number of studies have shown a link between pesticides and childhood cancers – leukemias, lymphomas, neuroblastomas, and brain cancers. Children are exposed to pesticides by touching no-pest strips, walking on lawns sprayed with fungicides and herbicides, and getting into cupboards containing common household cleaning agents.

Peter Montague, writing for the Environmental Research Foundation, says there seems to be a strong link between brain cancers and products used to kill fleas and ticks – like pyrethrins (natural) and pyrethroids (synthetic pyrethrins: permethrin, tetramethrin, allethrin, resmethrin, and fenvalerate), and chlorpyrifos (known as Dursban).

Pesticides and Parkinson’s
The connection between Parkinson’s disease and pesticides is becoming stronger. A study out of Stanford University’s School of Medicine looked at people who had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and their exposure to pesticides in their homes or gardens. The study of nearly 500 people found those who were exposed to insecticides in their homes were 70 percent more likely to get Parkinson’s than those who had no exposure. The average amount of time of exposure was only 77 days – less than three months! Exposure of garden insecticides doubled a person’s risk for developing Parkinson’s. Herbicide exposure also increased risk for this disease. Exposure for 30 days resulted in a 40 percent increased risk for Parkinson’s, while exposure for 160 days boosted the risk to 70 percent.

Isn’t this, alone, a good enough reason to move away from toxic products?

Rogers, Sherry A., MD. Tired or Toxic?, Prestige Publishing, Syracuse, NY, 1990.

Rogers, Sherry A., MD. Wellness Against All Odds, Prestige Publishing, Syracuse, NY, 1994.

Rogers, Sherry A., MD. Chemical Sensitivity, Keats Publishing, 1995.

Robinson, James C., William S. Pease, David S. Albright, and Rachel A. Morello-Frosch. “Pesticides in the Home and Community: Health Risks and Policy Alternatives,” California Policy Seminar, Volume 6, Number 2, April 1994. Berkeley, CA.

Montague, Peter. “Children’s Cancer and Pesticides,” Environmental Research Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403. “EPA Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage: 1996 and 1997 Market Estimates,” November 1999, #733-R-99-001.

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Written by Nan Kathryn Fuchs PhD

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