I see a lot of patients with symptoms from allergies or toxins this time of year. Spring winds, blossoms, pollen and dust can result in miserable symptoms of fatigue, itchy rashes, watery eyes and runny noses. Spring-cleaning, changing clothes after being outside, showering and changing the HVAC filters can reduce allergen exposure in the home. But beware because exposure to cleaning product toxins can sensitize the immune system to react to even more allergens.

The most dangerous cleaning products are drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. Their corrosive chemicals severely burn eyes and skin on contact and inhaled fumes burn lung tissue. Common ingredients like chlorine bleach and ammonia, being highly toxic in their original state, produce even more toxic fumes when they are combined with each other or other chemicals. Keep in mind, inhaled chemicals have a direct route to all internal organs via the bloodstream.

All-purpose cleaners with sudsing agents are among the most dangerous products because the chemicals in them combine with food chemicals to form cancer-causing substances that readily penetrate the skin. Many of the chemicals are also “endocrine disruptors” because they interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages. Decreased sperm count, increased rates of male birth defects, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), diabetes and cancer are just a few consequences of exposure.

Fragrances in cleaners, most notably laundry detergents and fabric softeners cause itchy rash, respiratory irritation, headache, sneezing, and watery eyes in sensitive individuals. Since chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients or test them for toxicity.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that, “In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.”

There are safer alternatives to getting a clean, freshly scented home. The EWG has a free guide here: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners. Lemon, cooking oil, vinegar and baking soda are just a few multipurpose cleaning items you probably have around already. Essential oils can provide a clean scent. eCloths require only water to produce fabulous shine. So get busy and make this spring-cleaning event one you can feel really good about by reducing your exposure to allergens and toxic chemicals. – Cheryl Hamilton, NMD

Hi, I’m Dr. Cheryl Hamilton