Photo of a washing machine
Hidden chemicals in our cleaning products mean we may be washing 'dirt' into our clothes

Report reveals hidden hazardous chemicals in cleaning products

18 November, 2011

Natural Health News — Cleaning product companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients they use in their products, and what they’re keeping secret from you could be hazardous to your health.

In a new report, Dirty Secrets, US campaigning group Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) commissioned an independent laboratory to test twenty popular cleaning products for hidden toxic chemicals from five top companies: Clorox, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson and Son and Sunshine Makers (Simple Green).

Products tested included popular US brands of all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectant sprays and furniture polish.

Many of these products are also sold in the UK and Europe, among them Tide laundry detergent, Bounce dryer sheets and Febreze fabric freshener as well as Airwick and Glade air fresheners.

While previous reports by WVE (Household Hazards, in 2007 and Disinfectant Overkill, in 2009) examined the hazards of harmful chemicals whose presence had been disclosed by manufacturers, this report exposes toxic chemicals that companies are keeping secret from consumers.

What the report found

  • Some products contained reproductive toxins such as toluene and phthalates, carcinogens like 1,4-dioxane and chloroform, and a hormone disrupting synthetic musk
  • Several known allergens were also detected in these products, the highest levels of which appeared in fragranced air fresheners
  • Allergens were found in products marketed as fragrance-free
  • None of these chemicals were listed on the product’s label

This analysis represents a snapshot of the hidden chemicals found in popular cleaning products from five leading manufacturers. The results demonstrate that consumers do not have all of the ingredient information they need to select safe cleaning products.

Consumers deserve to know what chemicals they are being exposed to, so that they can easily avoid products that may cause allergic reactions or serious long-term health impacts like cancer, birth defects, or infertility.

Manufacturers often recommend frequent and repeated use of their products, but this also translates to frequent and repeated exposures to potentially harmful chemicals. You may inhale these chemicals by breathing indoor air and some of them can be absorbed through the skin.

Long-term exposures to certain chemicals found in household cleaners have been linked to serious health problems like pregnancy complications, breast cancer, birth defects, asthma and allergic reactions.