Potentially Harmful Chemicals Discovered in Numerous Everyday Items: Research

Key Takeaways:

  • The study analyzed over 200 common household items and identified 55 chemicals that could potentially be linked to health problems such as hormone disruptions and asthma.
  • Notably, these chemicals were not listed on the product labels, which included products marketed as traditional and “alternative” products often labelled as fragrance-free, more natural, and safer.
  • There are growing calls for better product labeling and improved chemical policies in the United States, however, this study has faced criticism from industry groups.
  • In lieu of definitive scientific conclusions on the health impacts of these chemicals, the Silent Spring Institute advises consumers to opt for plant-based products, use water, baking soda and vinegar for cleaning, and avoid products with fragrance and parabens.

According to a thorough investigation on over 200 readily available home goods, there could potentially be chemicals present that research suggests may have a connection with hormone disturbances and asthma, investigators found.

Household Products Examined

The study took into account a vast number of everyday items, such as cleansers, laundry detergents, soaps, lotions, sun protectors, air fresheners, kitty litter, shaving cream, plastic shower curtains, pillow protectors, cosmetics, and fragrances.

Negative Health Consequences

The investigation identified 55 chemicals that could potentially be linked to health issues. Detected substances included various forms of phthalates, which have potential links to reproductive abnormalities and asthma; bisphenol A (BPA), which is being phased out of most baby bottles and children’s toys because of the potential risk to fetuses and young children; and parabens, which, according to some studies, may mimic estrogen in the human body and have been connected with breast cancer.

Significance of the Study

“This study is a significant, peer-reviewed investigation looking into hormone-disrupting and asthma-related chemicals in a wide array of consumer products,” stated study leader Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute.

The Hidden Nature of the Chemicals

Interestingly, these chemicals were not identified on the product labels, which included both big-name products and those marketed as “alternative” products often labelled as fragrance-free, more natural, and safer than traditional products.

The study found one or more of the chemicals in all the traditional product samples tested and in 32 out of 43 alternative products.

Call for Better Labeling

Dodson argues for more precise product labeling so it is clear to consumers what they’re being exposed to.

She explained: “The range of chemicals we are potentially exposed to in everyday products is vast, and these chemicals often aren’t listed on labels. This data should be used to modernize our chemical policy in the United States,” She added, “It appears these chemicals are not being adequately tested before being placed on the market.”

Criticisms from the Industry

However, this study has been criticized by some industry groups who claim that the research’s conclusions are misleading. They believe that it wrongfully suggests the presence of these chemicals within products automatically equates to potential health risk.

Additionally, Brian Sansoni, spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, voiced disappointment with the research, claiming that it necessitates safety concerns over cleaning products and disregards industry efforts to communicate with consumers regarding ingredients.

Unresolved Scientific Questions

Steven Bennett, director of scientific affairs for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, also expressed his concerns about the research, stating that the link between certain chemicals, endocrine disruption, and asthma has not been definitively confirmed.

In response to growing consumer concerns, manufacturers are now taking measures to keep consumers informed about the ingredients in household products, Bennett added.

He noted that some companies are voluntarily participating in initiatives to list product ingredients on labels, websites or by providing a toll-free number to access information.

Concerns of Consumers and Experts

A New York City-based associate professor of environmental health science at Columbia University, Matt Perzanowski, noted that research on the potential health impacts of these chemicals is not yet conclusive. Most existing studies are observational, signifying that potential associations between certain exposures and health effects have been discovered, but causality hasn’t conclusively been proven.

Despite this, the link between BPA and endocrine disruption appears to be the most significant, according to Perzanowski.

Some Advice for Consumers

In light of these findings, the Silent Spring Institute provides some suggestions for consumers:

  • Opting for plant-based products
  • Turning to water, baking soda and vinegar for cleaning purposes
  • Wearing hats and protective clothing rather than solely depending on sunscreen for sun protection
  • Avoiding products containing fragrance
  • Choosing paraben-free lotions, deodorants, and shampoos

It’s worth noting that antimicrobial soaps have been found to contain chemicals such as triclosan and triclocarban, which are also suspected of causing hormone disruption and asthma.

More Information:

Find the list of tested products here.

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