There has been a growing discussion in recent news around the effects of chemicals — both in the home and in the garden. In fact, some are proposed to be banned in the near future as they can interfere with air pollution.
Domestic chemicals can have negative effects on our well-being and often we don’t realise that we are using products that contain them. One study revealed that regular household cleaning products, such as shampoo and oven cleaner, release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and contribute up to half of VOCs found in the atmosphere. Compost Direct, retailers of mulch and other garden essentials, explore the effects that domestic chemicals can have and how to replace them with safer alternatives.
The fight against chemicals
More studies are revealing the harmful effects that domestic chemicals can have in the home. Although some are on their way to be banned, there are others that remain on our supermarket shelves. Examples of these include:
- Hand soap — some contain the chemical triclosan, which has been found to affect thyroid hormones in animal studies and possibly contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs.
- Researchers from the University of Iowa discovered that some kitchen cabinets emit PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl compounds), chemicals which are under investigation as causes of cancer.
- Garden pesticides — neonicotinoid pesticides put both honeybees and wild bees at risk. Although, the UK government has said it will support a complete ban on the outdoor use of bee-harming chemicals.
- Benzene — this is a colourless chemical that is used to make lubricants, rubbers, dyes and detergents. It can be harmful with high exposure, as it leads to cells not working correctly.
- Formaldehyde — this is found in varnishes and floor finishes and can cause sickness and long-lasting problems after high exposure.
The combination of some domestic chemicals can be harmful too. The mixture of bleach and rubbing alcohol, for example, can create toxic chloroform and make you unconscious — it’s always a good idea to read the label and be cautious when dealing with these sorts of products.
What can you use instead?
Avoiding all chemicals can be hard, as they’re in most things that we use day-to-day. So, what actions can we take?
The best thing that you can do is check the labels before you purchase. Look out for the harmful ingredients that we’ve mentioned above and try to stay clear of them. As their dangerous properties have become more talked about, there are now many organic alternatives that you can buy for those sorts of products. Although these might have a higher price tag, it could be worth it in the long run.
Studies have also shown that house plants can eliminate the damage caused by these sorts of domestic chemicals. Take a look at the following for example:
- NASA reported that pineapple plants can improve air quality and help reduce snoring.
- Peace Lily can reduce toxins such as benzene, ammonia, ethyl and acetone and prevent the toxins from spreading across rooms. Research found that this plant can improve air quality by as much as 60%!
- Red-edged Dracaena rids the air of chemicals including xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.
If you’re using varnishes or products that give off harmful fumes, make sure that you ensure adequate ventilation, moderate temperatures and reduce humidity levels with dehumidifiers.