What’s in your home? Toxic chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Potentially dangerous chemicals can be found in every room in your home.

“Any products in your house are a poison,” explains IU Health Dr. Salvatore Migliore.

Dr. Migliore says it’s important we know air fresheners, cleaning products and even burning candles can all cause us harm, if we use them too often.

“The father of toxicology says the dose makes the poison. Therefore, anything that you actually use will be toxic if you take too much of it, get exposed to too much of it,” said Dr. Migliore.

According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, 53 percent of cleaning products under review contain lung-harming ingredients. Windshield wiper fluid, for example, contains methanol, which can cause blindness. Dryer sheets contain trace amounts of formaldehyde and benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

However, Dr. Migliore says do not panic, just be careful and know what’s in your home.

“Everything in moderation. Those products are considered safe but if using too much of it or if you put it in contact with your hands. Best practice is to have gloves,” said Migliore.

Speedway mother Melissa Mattingly buys natural products when she can and keeps them out of reach from her children.

“I don`t feel like there has been enough research out there about the longevity and chemicals about what could happen,” said Mattingly.

Cleveland Clinic lists several products in your garage, laundry room, kitchen and living that could cause harm – and, it’s often the products we don’t think about that could cause concern.

Air fresheners contain formaldehyde. The strong smells can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs.

Window cleaner contains ammonia. If it is accidentally mixed with chlorine, it can produce a deadly gas. An ingredient in carpet cleaner can damage your liver.

“Something I never thought about is toothpaste.  My son, Parker, called for me recently and I went into the bathroom and he was acting a little strange and quiet,” said Mattingly.

Mattingly says she smelled Parker’s minty-fresh breath. The mom quickly realized her son ate nearly an entire tube of toothpaste.

“It was spicy. I didn't like it. It was a little hot,” said Parker Mattingly.

Parker's mother called poison control right away.

“I had to give them the active ingredients in the tube and his age and his weight,” she said.

Parker did not need to go to the emergency room, but he did get sick later that evening.

Mattingly says she’s learning from Parker’s scary situation and she hopes other parents do as well.

“Look at the products. Know what you have you in your house.  Do your research and don't assume that because it is sold in the store, it is safe,” said Mattingly.

Dr. Migliore says it’s important for every family to have the poison control number on your smartphone and easily accessible in your home: 1-800-222-1222.

Call the American Association of Poison Control Centers if your child is exposed to something that may be toxic of if they’ve ingested the substance. The Poison Control hotline is open 24/7.

Click here for more information on toxic household products.

In June, President Obama signed a bill into law that places stronger regulations on chemicals in many household products, including detergents, clothing, cleansers and paint thinners.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act gives the EPA more oversight to monitor chemicals.

The pace of the change though, as Dr. Migliore explains, will be slow but “is a step in the right direction to make our homes safer from toxic chemicals.”

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