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What's hiding in your household products?

Bryn Mawr Hospital June 9, 2014 General Wellness

You spend a lot of time in your home, and you want it to be safe, but could there be hidden health risks lurking in your home that you don’t know about? From concerns about microwaves and radiation to BPA-free products, there have been more questions raised about the safety of household products in recent years.

“Cleaning products and household products, in general, are usually safe when they’re used responsibly and as directed, but there are common questions that come up about potential health risks in the home,” says Lisa Freedman, MD primary care physician at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “It’s important for parents and homeowners to do their research.”

Below, Dr. Freedman answers four of the most common questions about the health risks in the home.

Are microwaves bad for my health?

Microwave emissions are regulated by the FDA. To decrease your risk of harmful chemicals being transferred from the container to your food, look for microwave-safe containers like glass and ceramics and avoid plastic, metal, and aluminum containers. If you’re worried about radiation, stand far away from the microwave as you’re cooking, and avoid other sources like laptops, cell phones, and tablets.

I’ve been told to avoid plastic products with BPA. What does that mean?

BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastic products for many years, but it’s most commonly found in water bottles, children’s sippy cups and food containers. In recent years, concern over BPA in products has grown after research showed that the chemical could seep into food and beverages and affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.

Although you would have to consume an excessive amount of BPA to notice these effects, the FDA continues to investigate. In the meantime, look for products that are marked BPA-free or use alternative containers to avoid plastic.

Should I be using “green” cleaning products?

An increasing number of households are opting to use “green” cleaning products over traditional brands. Should you be hopping on the bandwagon? While it’s not necessary, these products can be safer to people and the planet. Look for green products or try make-at-home non-toxic solutions.

A word to the wise: Before you buy, make sure you read the list of ingredients. If you notice dangerous chemicals or don’t see the full list of ingredients listed, do some research before you try it. Many products get away with calling themselves green while still containing harmful ingredients.

Which is better: scented or unscented products?

Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets all come in a variety of different scents, but Dr. Freedman says unscented is best. The chemicals that make products like these smell so good could be hazardous to those who come in contact with them, even if only in small doses. Keep laundry products, deodorants, bath soaps and other cleaning products scent-free.