They’re supposed to make us clean, protect our skin and keep our homes germ-free. But some of the brand name products we use every day to wash our hands and scrub our floors may contain harmful, even cancer-causing ingredients.
People took a second look at their cleaning products when the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study this week suggesting that mice and fathead minnows showed damage after exposure to triclosan in doses similar to what people and animals encounter daily.
Mice had up to a 25 percent reduction in measures of heart functions within 20 minutes of being exposed to the chemical, and they exhibited lower grip strength. The minnows swam less after being exposed to the chemical for seven days.
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This isn’t the first evidence that triclosan may be harmful, but the study’s co-author said more research is needed to see if the chemical has similar effects on humans. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing triclosan’s safety (a new report is due this winter), but in 2010 the agency deemed the substance not known to be hazardous to humans.
But does it really do anything? Known as an antibacterial agent, the FDA said when added to Colgate Total toothpaste triclosan prevented gingivitis, but used in antibacterial soaps and body washes it couldn’t find any evidence that it was any better than soap and water.
Meanwhile, over at Johnson & Johnson, the company is being lauded for pledging to remove potentially harmful chemicals from its consumer products by the end of 2015, the first company of its kind to do so. Brand names include Neutrogena, Clean & Clear and Aveeno.
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Chemicals scheduled to disappear, said the New York Times, include carcinogens such as formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, plus the aforementioned ticlosan and phthalates, which according to the Environmental Working Group, have been found to disturb the endocrine system.
Curious about what’s in your personal and home cleaning products? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Cleaners Database Hall of Shame, and the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics Web site for more information.
Click through the gallery to see an array of products that still contain some of these harmful ingredients. Will you keep using them?
(Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)