Cleansing the Home of Cleaning Products

Toxic encephalopathy awareness month highlights cleaning product safety

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) You may think that by cleaning the kitchen with strong products, you are taking steps to keep your family safe from germs. However, these chemical products meant to clean may actually be contributing to illness.

May is National Toxic Encephalopathy and Chemical Injury Awareness Month, and organizers are aiming to educate people on how to protect themselves from preventable and dangerous exposures to toxins in their indoor environment.

"Read labels on cleaning products like you would food."

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes encephalopathy as any brain disease that changes the function or structure of the brain with an altered mental state as a result.

Symptoms from these changes can range widely and include memory loss, dementia, personality changes, muscle twitching or atrophy, seizures and the inability to speak.

According to the NINDS, encephalopathy can be caused by a variety of factors, including tumors or viruses, but also by prolonged contact with toxic substances. When exposure to toxic elements affects the nervous system, it is called neurotoxicity. The toxins can begin to damage or kill cells that communicate information within the nervous system.

The NINDS explains, “Neurotoxicity can result from exposure to substances used in chemotherapy, radiation treatment, drug therapies, and organ transplants, as well as exposure to heavy metals such as lead and mercury, certain foods and food additives, pesticides, industrial and/or cleaning solvents, cosmetics, and some naturally occurring substances.”

The National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation (NTEF), the organizing group behind the awareness month, reports that much of this exposure is preventable.

“EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and on occasion more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels,” reports the NTEF.

“These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors,” says the NTEF

The foundation suggests a number of changes to limit exposure to chemicals in indoor environments, including removing chemicals and fragrances from offices and seeing if employees report feeling less tired and breathing better.

NTEF also recommends avoiding using products with chlorine in the home and instead trying mixing one part white vinegar and three parts water and using this to clean windows and countertop surfaces.

The foundation also warns against assuming all products labeled “green” are safe without looking a little bit further into the substances used to make the product.

While each family and consumer will have to decide for themselves which products to buy, it can be helpful to be more aware about products and chemicals brought into the home.

“The purpose of this month is to create less toxic indoor environments,” the NTEF stresses. ”These changes may appear to be minor but will have an impact on everyone’s health if followed as recommended.”

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 6, 2013
Last Updated:
October 21, 2013