Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found in Many Household
THURSDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Tests of more than 200
common household products found that the products contain chemicals
that research suggests may be linked to asthma and hormone
disruption, researchers report.
Products tested included a wide range of household products,
such as soaps, lotions, detergents, cleaners, sunscreens, air
fresheners, kitty litter, shaving cream, vinyl shower curtains,
pillow protectors, cosmetics and perfumes.
Researchers identified 55 chemicals that studies have shown may
have health consequences. Among the chemicals detected were various
types of phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive
abnormalities and asthma; bisphenol A (BPA), which is being phased
out of many baby bottles and children's toys because of concerns
about the effect on fetuses and young children; and parabens, which
some research suggests may mimic estrogen in the body and have been
associated with breast cancer.
"This is the first large, peer-reviewed study looking at hormone-disrupting and asthma-related chemicals in a wide range of consumer products," said study author Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass.
The chemicals, however, were not listed on the product labels,
which included major brand-name products as well as those marketed
as "alternative" products that are often described as
fragrance-free, more natural and safer than conventional
One or more of the chemicals turned up in all of the
conventional product samples tested, and in 32 of 43 alternative
products, according to the report.
For each of the categories of conventional products, researchers
included several brands. For example, the floor cleaner sample
included Spic and Span, Swiffer WetJet Multi-Purpose Cleaner and
Stop & Shop Pine Oil Cleaner Disinfectant, while the laundry
detergent category included several brands sold by Procter &
Gamble, Unilever, Foodhold USA and Church & Dwight, the study
The study highlights the need for more complete labeling so that
consumers know what they're being exposed to, Dodson said.
"These results show we are exposed to a wide range of chemicals of concern in everyday products, and the chemicals aren't always listed on the labels," she said. "That can be a basis for modernizing our chemical policy in the United States. It seems these chemicals are not being adequately tested before being put on the shelf."
The study, titled "Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated
Chemicals in Consumer Products," is published in the March 8 online
Environmental Health Perspectives.
Two industry groups, however, took issue with the study
conclusions. The research implies that the "mere presence" of the
chemicals means the products have safety risks, they said.
"They are alarming consumers unnecessarily," said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, an industry association for cleaning product manufacturers. Researchers haven't uncovered evidence that typical use of various household products are contributing to health or safety issues, he said.
"We are disappointed at the research. It wrongly insinuates safety concerns over cleaning products and ignores enhanced efforts to communicate with consumers over ingredients," Sansoni added.
Another industry representative said the research linking
certain chemicals with endocrine disruption and asthma is not
"It is unfortunate and misleading that the title of this report implies that there is a well-defined link between consumer products and endocrine disruption and asthma, when the study of this issue continues and scientific questions remain unresolved," said Steven Bennett, director of scientific affairs for the Consumer Specialty Products Association.
Manufacturers and others are also taking steps to keep consumers
informed about what's in household products, Bennett added. That
includes the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative,
a voluntary industry program that took effect in 2010.
Participating companies are listing product ingredients on the
product label, on websites, or making information available via a
toll-free telephone number.
Matt Perzanowski, an associate professor of environmental health
science at Columbia University in New York City, said the study
will help to raise awareness about how little consumers may know
about what's in products they use everyday.
"They're identifying exposures to chemicals that a consumer wouldn't be able to identify, and also showing there is a broad spectrum of these exposures to these chemicals that people use," Perzanowski said.
He noted, however, that research on chemicals and their link to
health problems is not conclusive. Most of the studies have been
observational, meaning researchers have found associations between
certain exposures and health effects, but have not proven
Of all of the chemicals, the association between BPA and
endocrine disruption seems to be the strongest, Perzanowski
Because of the ubiquity of the consumer products and the
chemicals, it's difficult to try to stay away from them, Dodson
said. But Silent Spring offers some tips, including:
- choosing products that are plant-based,
- using water, baking soda and vinegar for cleaning,
- wearing hats and cover-ups instead of relying only on sunscreen
for sun protection,
- steering clear of cleaning and other products that contain
- avoiding vinyl pillow and mattress protectors,
- choosing lotions, deodorants and shampoos that are
Antimicrobial soaps also contain chemicals such as triclosan and
triclocarban, which are also chemicals of concern regarding asthma
and endocrine disruption, Dodson noted.
To see the list of products tested, visit the
Silent Spring Institute.
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