Link between allergies and household chemicals

Household dust, dust mites and pet hair are often blamed for common allergies resulting in sniffing, sneezing, a runny nose and eyes. But could something else be adding to the effects of allergies? Most people think that keeping their home perfectly clean will help reduce allergies. However, some studies don’t agree. An obsession with hygiene may instead actually have a negative impact on our health in several ways.



Impairing immune systems


There is a “hygiene hypothesis” that is being explored in scientific research based on the idea that our immune systems develop when to exposure to germs and bacteria. Certain microbes such as helmiths in particular are instrumental in the development of immunoregulatory mechanisms.


It is a concern that by making our homes so hygienically clean that we remove most microbes, we may inadvertently be increasing the risk of allergies by not allowing our immune systems a chance to develop properly.


In farming communities in Europe where children were routinely exposed to dust, dirt and animals it was found they have a lower incidence of allergies.


Pregnant women who lived on farms or in rural areas seem to naturally develop anti-bodies that reduced allergy. In other studies where people were regularly exposed to household cleaners and sprays there was an increase in allergies.  


Hidden allergy triggers in cleaning products


Many cleaning products are marketed to remove all germs and leave a home freshly fragranced. However, the ingredients that achieve this, may well be allergy triggers.

Air fresheners are at the top of the list of allergy causing chemicals. Some of the ingredients used in air fresheners include: Phthalates and other VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as formaldehyde ethanol and butane.


VOC’s are gaseous fumes that are emitted from certain products that can cause irritation to the mucous membranes and impact respiration. Contact with chemicals can also cause skin irritation and people who regularly work with cleaning chemicals such as janitors may at higher risk of developing allergies.


In one study, adults who has previously never suffered from asthma, started developing respiratory issues when using spray chemical household cleaners at least once a week.


Common cleaning chemicals that can cause allergies


Chemicals such as ammonia and bleach are common ingredients in household cleaners. They are effective in getting rid of molds and bacteria, but they also give off harmful fumes that even in small amounts can cause allergic reactions.


Many aerosol sprays contain chemicals such as monoethanolamine or 2-butoxyethanol that are both listed as a potential neurotoxins and carcinogenic.  The real risk is that many people simply aren’t aware of the chemical residues and how they can impact health.


Children and babies are particularly vulnerable due to their smaller size. Babies are prone to crawling on floors and touching surfaces which means that they are at even greater risk of exposure to chemicals.


Impacts of household chemicals on health


According to statistics from the US Poison centre, household chemicals account for almost 90% of poison exposure in reported cases. While manufacturers claim that chemicals are safe for use in the home, there aren’t really laws that require that this is tested.


The reality is therefore that we really don’t know the true impact of chemicals on our health. Applied logic implies that there must be a risk associated to continued exposure to chemicals that do not occur naturally in an environment. If you were to pour chemical laden water on plants it’s unlikely they will survive. So why do we think that we as humans will not be affected by chemicals.


In centuries past, our ancestors did not have these complex cleaning chemicals yet they still managed to keep their household clean. People living just 50 years ago were far less prone to allergies. Perhaps the reason is that they used natural organic products such as vinegar, lemon juice and bees wax to clean their homes instead of harsh chemicals.

The good news is that there are now organic cleaning products now available and that by using these you can greatly reduce the exposure to chemicals in your home. Find out more about Natureland’s new organic cleaning range – Nataura.  

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