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SOME HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS
MAY MAKE YOU SICK

Are the chemicals you use to clean your house safe? Some consumer advocates say maybe not.

They say all kinds of products in your home might be contributing to indoor air pollution, possibly making you and your family sick.

Laura Lind-Blum loves having a clean house.

"I like to have my white clothes white," she said.

How does she do it?

Amy Todisco, of the Consumers' Healthy Home Center, based in Huntington, Vt., visited her home to find out -- and cast a critical eye.

"One of my rules of thumb is, if you can't pronounce it, you don't want to use the product," Todisco said.

Lind-Blum hired Todisco to check her kitchen and laundry room for toxins.

"I know this one isn't all that good because it makes me sneeze and cough when I use it," Lind-Blum said of one of her cleaning products.

"See? That's a really good sign," Todisco said.

Todisco, and some scientists, believe many cleaning products have chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution and threaten people's health.

"I started to learn that none of these products are tested for their health effects before they're sold -- and that shocked me," Todisco said.

The federal government does not test most household products before they hit the shelves. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is tiny by federal standards and only reviews products already on the market. Many manufacturers test their products on their own, but no law requires it.

"The manufacturers are in this fabulous situation," Todisco said. "If you test your product and you learn something nasty about it, you have to report that. But if you don't want to test your product because you might learn something nasty about it, that's fine."

Toxicologist Rosalind Anderson does her own testing. Her Vermont laboratory is the only one in the country to perform tests on household products.

Recently, technicians tested pens to see what impact the fumes have on mice. Anderson said testing animals is the best way to predict the effect on people.

During the test, the mice were exposed for an hour to the pens' fumes, while computers monitored their breathing.

"Here's a place where the animal breathed and then paused for a long time," Anderson said. "That's abnormal."

The tests showed the pens are moderately toxic, which impaired the mice, but didn't kill them.

Anderson said that is similar to the way many products affect humans.

"So that you get it bad, you feel awful. You go away, you feel fine," Anderson said. "This kind of thing is something that toxicologists have never bothered with because they're so busy counting bodies."

The World Health Organization said one-third of the remodeled buildings across the globe have something in them making people sick.

Anderson said she's found toxins in perfumes, diapers, carpets and shower curtains, among other things. She said one of the worst offenders often comes as a surprise to many people.

"Air fresheners drive people batty," Anderson said. "I don't know whose advertising makes them sell, but they certainly don't freshen the air. They pollute the air."

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Written by: Click2Houston


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