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'Hall of Shame': Unhealthy Cleaning Supplies (And Some Safer Ideas)

Cleaning supplies 008
Thomas M Perkins

How about some spring cleaning of your spring cleaning supplies?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization that publishes the annual "dirty dozen" list of foods highest in pesticide residue, is compiling information on the toxic chemicals in thousands of common household cleaners.

The group's aim is to help consumers judge the safety of various products, which can be difficult to do based on the vague (or missing) information on many product labels.

So far the group's  Hall of Shame list includes products with toxic compounds that have been banned in other countries, as well as cleaners with ingredients that have been known to cause cancer, asthma, blindness or other serious conditions.

There are even so-called "green" products that hide hazardous ingredients.

Also included:

  • Products that are fatal if swallowed or inhaled, like Glade Air Freshener sprays, Lysol Disinfectant Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Lime and Rust Remover, and 2000 Flushes. ("When is a clean house worth this risk?" the group asks.)
  • Oven cleaners, like CVS Pharmacy Fume-Free and Easy-Off Heavy Duty, that emit fumes that can burn skin, lungs and eyes.
  • Mystery mixtures like Target's Up & Up and Walmart's Great Value that list very few ingredients or none at all.
  • Cleaners with 100-plus hidden chemicals, including Comet Disinfectant Cleanser Powder that emits 146 chemicals. The most toxic -- formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene -- are not even listed on the label.

For consumers, it's hard to figure out cleaning ingredients because the government doesn't require that cleaning products carry a list of ingredients, or even that products and ingredients be tested for health safety, the EWG said. The few exceptions include antibacterial cleaners, which are tested for pesticide content.

For a safer spring cleaning without as many harsh cleaning supplies, Real Simple magazine offers these clever all-natural cleaning tips -- including using baking soda as a drain unclogger -- that could save you time, money and health worries.

In other health news:

For men: New testosterone drugs have doctors worried. In what may become one of the most sought-after sex enhancement treatments since the introduction of Viagra 14 years ago, new testosterone drugs from Abbott, Lilly and other drugmakers are in hot demand, Bloomberg News reports. But doctors warn that demand for the treatments could lead to overuse with deadly side effects, including growth of prostate tumors, blood clots, infertility and liver damage.

For women: 'Menopause Map' -- a digital tool to help with symptoms. The Huffington Post writes about the   "Menopause Map," an interactive tool launched by The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Health Network to provide women with information on menopause symptoms and treatment options, including whether hormone therapy might be right for them. A new survey by the two groups found that more than 70 percent of women facing these symptoms -- including hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal changes -- are concerned about hormone treatment and are not discussing it, or other non-hormonal options, with their doctor.

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may curb memory loss. CNN reports on a new study that found that people who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids -- found in salmon, trout, tuna, walnuts, kale -- may significantly lower their risk of developing memory problems and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers followed the dietary habits of 1,219 people over age 65 for more than a year, then tested the subjects' blood for beta-amyloid, a sticky protein associated with memory problems and Alzheimer's disease. Those who consumed omega-3 had significantly lower levels of amyloid in their blood.

Patients leaving the hospital against advice fare worse. In the U.S., about 500,000 patients a year sign themselves out of the hospital against medical advice. Reuters reports on a new study showing that those who do may have an increased risk of being readmitted or dying within a month, based on research at a New York medical center.

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