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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Got Allergies? Clean Green!: Allergies and Autoimmune Disease Spurred by Chemicals

Apr 01, 2014 03:09AM ● By Jaime A. Heidel

Spring is in the air and with it comes the pollen and ragweed that sends over half of the population scurrying into the relative safety of their homes with windows closed and tissues at the ready. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, approximately 54 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some sort of allergy.

In the past 60 years, incidence of allergies has risen substantially and so has the diagnosis of autoimmune disease. With an allergy, the immune system mistakes a harmless substance outside the body (pollen, pet dander) as a foreign invader and triggers an inflammatory response. In autoimmune disease, the immune system misidentifies and attacks healthy tissue (lungs, intestines), resulting in a chronic inflammatory response.

Unfortunately, if you suffer from allergies, staying inside may not keep you safe, especially if you are doing some spring cleaning. The average household cleaning product contains 62 toxic chemicals that can exacerbate existing symptoms and even cause new ones. There is currently no federal regulation for any of the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products.

The classic allergic symptoms won’t be the only indicator that there may be a problem. Nearly everyone with allergies or an autoimmune disease also has a compromised digestive system. When a home is cleaned with products containing harmful synthetic chemicals, it can worsen symptoms by further depleting healthy gut bacteria, even though you’re only inhaling and not swallowing the products.

Mark J. Joachim, DC, who practices in Norwalk and specializes in treatment of allergic conditions, has seen a striking rise in the amount of multiple food and chemical sensitivities as well as autoimmune dysfunction in the patients he has treated over 22 years.

“The synthetic chemicals in our food and environment are a constant challenge to our bodies and have a detrimental effect on our health by compromising our digestive and immune systems,” Joachim says. Since over 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut, keeping the digestive system healthy and filled with beneficial bacteria is a key step in preventing chronic disease.

“As our gut is compromised through exposure to certain medications, unhealthy food sources (processed and GMO foods) and synthetic chemicals, we develop intolerances/sensitivities,” Joachim explains. Over time, these intolerances and sensitivities may turn into permanent allergies and cause such a disruption of the immune system that it turns on itself: autoimmune disease.

Joachim currently uses the BioSET Allergy Elimination System with his patients, which he says has the ability to permanently eliminate some food and environmental allergies.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Synthetic Chemical Cleaners

So what are the commonly used synthetic cleaners to watch out for? These are the top 10 most dangerous synthetic chemicals in conventional cleaning products:

1. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde has been declared by the National Cancer Institute as a known human carcinogen. Exposure to this chemical has been linked to chronic upper respiratory distress and contact dermatitis. Expectant mothers should be especially wary; prenatal exposure has been linked to developmental disorders. This chemical is often found in wood cleaner and aerosol propellants.

2. Dioxin: Chlorine from bleach eventually turns into dioxin. The World Health Organization has declared dioxins a danger because they “affect a number of organs and systems.” This chemical has also been declared as a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. Dioxin has been linked to birth defects, deformities, developmental delays and immune system damage. One of the most dangerous aspects of dioxin is that it is absorbed by fat tissue and can remain in the body for 7-11 years. Anything labeled “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” could potentially contain this chemical compound.

3. Benzene: Benzene is a component of products derived from coal and petroleum and is found in gasoline and other fuels. “Long-term exposure may affect bone marrow and blood production. Short-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness and even death,” according to OSHA.gov. Benzene has also been linked to the development of leukemia. It is commonly found in furniture polish.

4. Chloroform: The Environmental Protection Agency has classified chloroform as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen. Chronic long-term exposure to this chemical has been associated with neurological impairment, mood disorders, hepatitis and jaundice. Chloroform is often found in de-greasing agents and carpet spot removers.

5. Toluene: Toluene is a clear, water-insoluble liquid derived from coal tar and petroleum. The Centers for Disease Control has labeled this chemical as “Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations” as it has been linked to extreme fatigue, mental confusion, nausea, headache and dizziness from exposure to small concentrations. Toluene is most commonly found in brush cleaners, varnish and wood-finishing agents. 

6. Propylene Glycol: Although propylene glycol has not been linked to nearly as many negative health effects as others, hidden allergy to propylene glycol is quite common. This chemical is often used as a solvent and enzyme stabilizer in a multitude of cleaning products. 

7. Parabens: Autoimmune thyroid disease could be, in part, the result of exposure to parabens. According to a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology, parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt the body’s hormone system. The study revealed that the effects of parabens may be “thyrotoxic” and also contribute to reproductive and developmental disorders. Parabens are found in a multitude of household cleaners.

8. Phthalates: Phthalates are considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals and are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the “Twelfth Report on Carcinogens” published by the National Toxicology Program. These chemicals can be found in multiple cleaning products but are most commonly found in air fresheners.

9. Triclosan:  Triclosan is a synthetic antibacterial agent that has been recently linked to the development of antibiotic resistance – the inability of prescription antibiotics to kill bacteria. Triclosan has chlorinated structures that bind to your thyroid gland, which displaces essential iodine and causes chronic inflammation. Using antibacterial soap and chlorinated water to clean our homes exposes us to Triclosan as well as chloroform.

10. Chlorine: Chlorine bleach is quite caustic and can result in chest pains, upper respiratory distress and eye irritation. According to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, chronic exposure to chlorine during a period of inflammation (sickness or injury) could result in the development of an autoimmune disease. Any product containing bleach contains chlorine. 

Ways to Ditch the Chemicals and Clean Green

Many of us are turning to greener products in an attempt to reduce our allergies as well as our carbon footprint. However, as these products become more popular, manufacturers struggle to keep up while keeping costs down. This results in many products being labeled “natural” and “organic” when they actually contain synthetic fragrances and chemicals.

In contrast, Shaklee has created completely organic cleaning products since 1956. The products they produce are plant-based and contain no harmful fumes, phthalates or bisphenol-A. Shaklee’s cleaning products also save energy and eliminate excess waste by coming in recyclable or reduced-waste packaging. They are highly-concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

Debbie Miron, an authorized Shaklee distributor based in Greenwich, understands good health means more than eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. “When it comes to being your healthiest self, what you put around your body is just as important as what you put in your body. That’s why home should be the safest place on earth.”

This is good advice, especially for anyone suffering with allergies or an autoimmune disease. Your home should be a sanctuary; a healing place where everything is designed to improve your health or, at the very least, not harm it.

Nancy Sherr, owner of Chamomille Natural Foods in Danbury, says a safe, low-cost way to clean your home is to use a component for popular salad dressing. “Use distilled white vinegar,” Sherr advises. “You can pick up a gallon cheaply at most supermarkets. It cuts through grease and kills most bacteria. The vinegar smell does not linger but, if does bother you, you can add a favorite essential oil to the bottle before using.”

Fairfield County also boasts at least one home and business cleaning service which specializes in healthier, non-toxic cleaning. Elegant Lifestyle Organic Homecleaning Service has been in business for eight years and the team - which provides all tools and cleaning products - even uses a special filtering vacuum. Owner Ines Japa says the products her company uses are toxin-free and naturally aromatic, without synthetic chemicals or scents. “Why wouldn’t someone choose the safer alternative for their family,” she asks. “The choice is clear!”

Jaime A. Heidel is a Connecticut-based freelance writer whose passion for natural health began when her lifelong mystery symptoms were diagnosed as gluten intolerance by a naturopathic physician. Connect with her at IToldYouIWasSick.com.


Local Resources

Mark Joachim, DC • Associates In Family Chiropractic • Norwalk • 203-838-1555 • AllergyElimination.com

Debra S. Miron • Authorized Shaklee Distributor • Greenwich • 203-253-1462 • DebbieMiron.MyShaklee.com

Nancy Sherr • Chamomille Natural Foods • Danbury • 203-792-8953 • ChamomilleNaturalFoods.com

Ines Japa • Elegant Lifestyle Organic Homecleaning • Serving Fairfield County • 203-313-5155