The Most Toxic Places in Your Home: Under the Kitchen Sink

You might be surprised that the most toxic place in your home is right under your kitchen sink. For most of us, it's where we keep our powerhouse cleaning products. Things like bleach, ammonia, tile scrubbers, and other heavy-duty cleaning products. These products are potent—and dangerous. "They're effective cleaning agents because they're reactive substances," says David O. Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, State University of New York. "You might want that in your kitchen sink, but you don't want it in your lungs."

Hazardous Substances

Many common cleaning products are considered hazardous substances and are regulated by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. Ammonia and chlorine bleach can cause headaches, burn the skin, and irritate the eyes and respiratory tract. Accidentally mixing ammonia and chlorine bleach releases toxic chlorine gas that damages lung tissue and impairs lung function.

Also, regularly cleaning with bleach—which generally contains chlorine, classified as a hazardous air pollutant in the 1990 Clean Air Act—is particularly harmful to kids because it can trigger and worsen asthma, Landrigan adds.

Detox Your Cleaning

Thankfully, it's simple to detox your kitchen. Replace potent products under the sink with milder versions from brands like Seventh Generation, Biokleen, and Ecover; they voluntarily list (less toxic) ingredients and banish most germs just as well. "You don't need the cleaning products we used in the past," Carpenter says. "Soap, water, and elbow grease are all you need."

Start by swapping the one household cleaner you use most. Each little change will improve the air you breathe.

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