There are literally thousands of different chemical ingredients that can be used in cleaning products and some raw materials have many different names for the same chemical. Our site only gives a sampling of some of the ingredients used in cleaning products. There is a wealth of information freely available on the Internet, so please take the time to look into the hazards of different ingredients as you encounter them. You can use a search engine such as Google and type in the name of the chemical, its CAS number, or 'MSDS' followed by the chemical name.

More info on:

Surfactants, Builders, Petroleum solvents, Alcohols, Artificial fragrances, Bleaching Agents, Dyes.

Surfactants

All multi-purpose cleaners, degreasers, glass cleaners, bathroom cleaners and laundry detergents sold in the market contain at least one surfactant. Surfactants are used in cleaning products to reduce the surface tension of water (to make water wetter) and aid in penetrating, solubilizing or suspending soil so that it may be easily washed, wiped, or rinsed away. There are many different types of surfactanges. Preference should be given to surfactants that are derived from botanical origin as these are genereally non-toxic, readily biodegradable and do not persist in our environment to cause harm to our ecosystems. The following is an example of a toxic surfactant:

Nonyphenol Ethoxylates - CAS #9016-45-9 is a toxic surfactant that is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor. Environment Canada has added Nonylphenol and its Ethoxylates to its list of toxic substances as per the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

Studies in Canada and other countries have shown that endocrine disruptors can interact with the endocrine systems of many species and adversely affect growth, development or reproduction. Some exmaples of endocrine-related effects in wild populations are as follows:

  • Deformities and embryo mortality in birds and fish.
  • Impaired reproduction and development in fish
  • Depressed thyroid and immune functions in fish-eating birds.
  • Feminization of male fish.

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Builders

Hard water reduces the effectiveness of the surfactants used in cleaning products. Certain chemicals, referred to as builders, are used in cleaning products to tie up water hardness (Calcium and Magnesium salts) to improve the performance of surfactants. The following are some of the builders commonly used in cleaning products:

EDTA - CAS #60-00-4 (also known as Ethylene Diamine Tetraacetic Acid or Versene Acid): This chemical is not readily biodegradable. It ties up cancer causing heavy metals and mobilize them into our waters, where they can be ingested by fish.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 1000 to 2000 mg/kg.

NTA - CAS #139-13-9 (also known as Nitrilo Triacetic Acid): This toxic chemical is not readily biodegradable and is a suspected carcinogen (cancer causing). Like EDTA, it also ties up cancer causing heavy metals and mobilizes them into our waters, where they can be ingested by fish.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 1470 mg/kg.

Sodium Silicate - CAS #1344-09-8: This toxic chemical is derived from a non-sustainable resource. It is a strong irritant.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = >2000 mg/kg.

Sodium Metasilicate - CAS #6834-92-0 (also known as Metso Beads): This toxic chemical is derived from a non-sustainable resource. It is highly corrosive to skin and eyes.

The toxicity of this chemical is LD50 (Oral rat) = 770 mg/kg.

Phosphates - CAS #7601-54-9 or CAS #7558-79-4: This chemical encourages the growth of algae in our waters. Excessive algal blooms result in eutophication of our lakes (oxygen depletion), resulting in death of aquatic life.

Sodium Carbonate - CAS #497-19-8 (also known as Soda Ash): This chemical is derived from a non-sustainable resource.

The toxicity of this chemical is LD50 (Oral rat) = 4090 mg/kg.

Sodium Bicarbonate - CAS#144-55-8 (also known as Baking Soda): This chemical is derived from a non-sustainable resource.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 4220 mg/kg.

Sodium Borate - CAS #1330-43-4 (also known as Borax): This chemical is derived from a non-sustainable resource.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 2660 mg/kg.

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Petroleum Solvents

Petroleum Solvents are toxic substances used to boost the cleaning power of cleaning products and/or solubilize other ingredients in water. These are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause indoor air pollution and may deplete the ozone layer. Petroleum solvents are also derived from a non-renewable and non-sustainable resource. The following are some of the commonly used petroleum solvents in cleaning products:

Butyl Cellusolve - CAS #11-76-2 (also known as 2-Butoxy Ethanol, Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether, Glycol Ether EB): This is a toxic, combustible chemical that can cause liver and kidney damage. This chemical has shown reproductive toxicity in laboratory animals.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 470 mg/kg.

Environment Canada has added Butyl Cellusolve to its list of toxic substances as per the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). This chemical is also on the Hazardous Substance List in the United States because it is regulated by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cited by ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists), DOT (Department of Transportation) and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

2-Methoxyethanol - CAS #109-86-4 (also known as Ethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether, Monomethyl Glycol Ether, Methyl Oxitol, Methyl Glycol, Methoxyethanol, Glycomethyl Ether, Methoxyhydroxyethane, Methyl Ethoxol): This is a toxic, flammable chemical that may cause liver damage, central nervous system damage and reproductive disorders in humans. Environment Canada has added 2-Methosyethanol to its list of toxic substances as per the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 2370 mg/kg.

Monoethanolamine - CASE #141-43-5 (also known as Ethanolamine, 2-Aminoethanol, 2-Hydroxyethylamine): This is a toxic, combustible chemical that is corrosive to the skin and may damage the liver and kidneys. It also causes indoor pollution. This chemical is on the hazardous substance list.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 1720 mg/kg.

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Alcohols

Because of the high evaporation rate and solvent attributes, alcohols are used in perfumes, deodorizers, glass cleaners, etc. Alcohols cause indoor air pollution.

Isopropyl Alcohol - CAS #67-63-0 (also known as 2-Propanol, Rubbing alcohol, IPA, Isopropanol): This is a highly flammable chemical that causes indoor air pollution. Overexposure to this chemical can cause headaches, drowsiness, confusion, loss of co-ordination, unconsciousness and even, death. This chemical is on the hazardous substance list.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 5045 mg/kg.

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Artificial Fragrances

There are thousands of artificial fragrances available to manufacturers for use in cleaning and deoderizing products. A single artificial fragrance could be made up of 50 to 100, or more toxic chemical ingredients. Artificial fragrances cause indoor air pollution and may trigger environmental illnesses such as headache, sinusitis, asthma, allergy, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity, etc.

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Bleaching Agents

These cheamicals may be found in laundry detergents, bathroom cleaners, spot and stain removers, disinfectants, deoderizers, etc. The following are some examples of bleaching agents commonly used in cleaning products:

Sodium Hypochlorite - CAS #7681-52-9 (also known as Bleach): This toxic, corrosive chemical can combine with other chemicals to form cancer causing compounds. When mixed with acidic products, this chemical releases poisonous chlorine gas. It should never be mixed with ammonia, as poisonous chloramines gas is formed. Urine contains ammonia, so bleach should not be used to clean urine spills.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) = 192 mg/kg.

Hydrogen Peroxide - CAS #7722-84-1 This strong oxidizing agent is corrosive and can affect you when breathed in. Because it is a mutagen, this chemical should be handled with extreme caution, as it is a possible carcinogen. It is also highly reactive and a dangerous explosion hazard.

The toxicity of this chemical is: LD50 (Oral rat) - 1518 mg/kg.

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Dyes

Artificial colouring commonly used in cleaning products are derived mainly from petroleum or coal tar. These chemicals are toxic and some can even cause cancer.

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