Chemical Hazards In Your Bathroom: How To Avoid Them

by Grace Motley

The bathroom is quite possibly the most dangerous room in your home.  It's the room where numerous chemicals are stored, from nail-polish remover (acetone) to potentially dangerous cleaners containing chlorine bleach, ammonia, and other harmful substances.  Because the bathroom is often damp and dark, it is a safe haven for mold.  In addition to the above-mentioned chemical and biological hazards, there are many more that you probably are not aware of.  Three examples have been listed below.

1. Bathroom Wipes

Formerly known as baby wipes, these cleansing cloth products have been re-marketed for use by adults as a toilet tissue substitute and an effective makeup remover.  Many brands of these wipes contain the chemical compound bronopol, which is an antimicrobial agent.  Bronopol releases low levels of formaldehyde as it decomposes.  Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound that can damage the eyes, irritate nasal membranes, cause headaches and contact dermatitis, dizziness, cancer, and immune dysfunction.  Formaldehyde is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen.

When buying baby wipes or bathroom wipes, check to make sure that the wipes do not contain added scents or bronopol.  There are several brands that explicitly state that these chemicals are not added to the wipes.

2. Antibacterial Hand Soap

According a report from the Centers for Disease Control, antibacterial soaps can actually cause germs to mutate.  The mutation of the germs renders them resistant to antibiotics and therefore much harder to exterminate.   The same report states that plain soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap at removing germs from the hands.

The main health concern surrounding antibacterial soaps is the active ingredient, triclosan.  This chemical has been linked to liver toxicity, thyroid dysfunction, decreased fertility, miscarriages, and cancer.  A disturbing study, conducted by two scientists for the American Chemical Society, revealed that fetuses were smaller than average in inverse proportion to the amount of triclosan in the umbilical cord blood.  More than half of the women tested had triclosan in their umbilical cord blood samples, implying that triclosan was being transferred to the fetuses.

Triclosan is a very common product that pops up in soaps, shampoos, deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpastes and many cleaning products.  Be sure to check the ingredients of these products before purchasing.  In order to keep triclosan out of your home, never buy soaps labeled "antibacterial".

3. Chemical Drain Openers

Toilets, showers, sinks, and tubs are often clogged by hair, waste, grooming products, and things that don't belong down the drain, such as paper towels, wipes, cotton balls, and towelettes.  When this happens, most people resort to drain openers, rather than take the more expensive alternative of calling a plumber.

Lye, the active ingredient in drain openers, is a powerful caustic substance known to eat its way through almost anything.  Inhalation of lye dust or lye mist can severely aggravate the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and lungs.

Lye is a very dangerous substance. Improper use can corrode pipes and even crack a toilet bowl if not diluted properly.  A much safer alternative to fixing a stopped-up drain is to try a plunger or drain snake.  If neither of these works, call a plumber to assist you.

Keeping your bathroom free of chemicals, such as triclosan and lye, will make your home a safer place in which to live. Additionally, calling a plumber like Dependable Plumbing to handle your drain stoppages rather than attempting to solve the problem with drain opener will help to keep your property safe.