Chemical Use Reduction
Chemicals are natural part of our everyday lives. We are exposed to multiple chemicals through accidental and intentional ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact.
What is Chemical Use Reduction?
Chemical use reduction is lowering the amount of chemicals used for the environment and for personal needs. Certain types of chemicals consist of those we use for laundry, cosmetics, pets and pests, and house repair, maintenance, and cleaning.
Why Chemical Use Reduction?
We are uncertain of the health effects of many chemicals and even the health effects of exposure to multiple chemicals. Those individuals most susceptible to the adverse health effects of harsher chemicals are those with immune deficiencies, children and the elderly. Chemical use reduction is used to reduce the risk of potential health problems and poisoning caused by too much chemical exposure over long periods of time.
Individuals use a vast array of chemical products around the home and for personal care (EPA, 2011). These include harsh pesticides, cleaning products, burning candles, new building materials that emit gas, fragrances and other cosmetic products (Masuck et al, 2011). There are some specific chemicals that are of concern in the indoor environment and these include naphthalene, formaldehyde, a variety of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and aldehydes (Derudi et al., 2012; Betterman et al., 2012; Guerrero 2012; Golden et al., 2011, and Dodson et al., 2012). These chemicals can be irritants (including triggers for asthma), carcinogens and endocrine disruptors (Anderson et al., 2012; Moran et al., 2012). Naphthalene, for example is found in pest repellants, deodorant, cigarette smoke and vehicle emissions form attached garages. A 2012 study in a subset of homes in Southeast Michigan found naphthalene levels exceeding the US EPA and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines (Betterman et al., 2012). In another study of 213 commercially available cosmetics, personal care products, specific sunscreens and vinyl products, 55 harsh compounds were found, including: bis 2-ethylhexy phthalate (DEHP), an implicated endocrine disrupting compound (Dodson et al., 2012). Cleaning habits and product usage varies among families and across demographics (Moran et al, 2012, EPA, 2011), but call for caution in their use. Chemical use reduction strategies and lessons can be imparted to the general public to reduce chemical concentrations in homes and promote health. Less harsh alternatives are available for cleaning products (e.g., vinegar and water), along with a general behavioral reduction in the use of personal care products. Methods for reducing concentration buildup can also be encouraged (e.g., improved ventilation). Many guidance documents are available through EOA, CDC and other agencies for educators and homeowners on the topics of pest management practices and chemical use reduction.
- 5 tips for Reducing Exposure to Chemicals in the Home
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Toxic Chemicals: Thomas E Higgins, 2011, CRC Press
- American Society of Safety Engineers: http://ehstoday.com/safety/chemical/ehs_imp_39314
- Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/safety/hic_household_chemicals_whats_in_my_house.aspx
- Food and Drug Administration:
- Harvard University: http://users.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/publications/ppaper847.html
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/114224/382.pdf
- Arkansas Poison Control Center
- Centers for Disease Control