Household Products Could Trigger Autoimmunity
Updated: Jan 19
You’re probably doing a lot more cleaning nowadays, with staying at home and anti-COVID19 sanitizing. But did you know that many household cleaning products and disinfectants contain potentially immune-stimulating and harmful chemicals? These chemicals can also be found in toiletries, cosmetics, and other products in the home.
There is scientific data to suggest that environmental toxins can trigger the development of autoimmunity. Chemicals commonly found in many household products can potentially attach to cellular material in the body and trigger immune reactions. In people who have a genetic predisposition, this could eventually lead to accidental attacks on self-tissue, leading to autoimmunity. In addition, these chemicals may cause direct damage to cells and DNA or interfere with the normal functioning of various hormones in the body. 
The list of potentially harmful chemicals is very long.
Here are some more common ones that you should be on the look out for:
Bisphenol-A (BPA) & phthalates: These are often found in plastic items, but are also used to make cosmetics, perfumes, aluminum cans, detergents, and cash register receipts. They are potential endocrine disruptors, which means they can negatively impact the normal function of hormones. This can lead to side effects on reproductive function and development. Phthalates have also been associated with an increased risk of developing asthma.
Triclosan: This is an antimicrobial agent found in cleaners and self-care products which can suppress thyroid hormone and estrogen function. In addition, the antimicrobial action of triclosan can negatively impact the intestinal microbiome by killing off beneficial organisms, resulting in immune system imbalance. This could also apply to excessive use of any antimicrobial agents.
Fragrances: A fragranced product can contain anywhere between 5 to 300 different chemicals, many of which have been associated with health effects like: allergic reactions, asthma and headaches, as well as endocrine disruption. They can be man-made or natural, but even “natural” fragrances can be artificially made.
Parabens: These are preservatives often found in self-care products which can disrupt normal hormone function.
Unfortunately, there is often limited and inconsistent disclosure of ingredients on product labels. Also, there isn’t any standardization or regulations for the use of the words “natural”, “non-toxic”, or “green”.
So, what can you do to minimize exposure to these chemicals?
Tips for Reducing Exposure to Toxic Chemicals:
Avoid scented products, particularly products which don’t disclose their fragrance ingredients on the label
If you prefer fragrance, look for plant-based natural sources
Avoid products made with parabens, triclosan, phthalates, or BPA
Avoid using plastic drinking bottles/mugs and containers, plastic wrap
Choose glass, ceramic, or stainless steel for heating and storing food and drinks
Buy canned foods that are labelled as being BPA-free
Support your body's detoxification system by eating foods high in dietary fiber, especially cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cabbage), and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
Refer to the Environmental Working Group website (www.ewg.org) for guides and tools for choosing safer household and beauty products
Create your own DIY cleaning and self-care products
Here are a couple of DIY products to get you started:
DIY All-Purpose Cleaner
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
Combine all ingredients together in a spray bottle, shake and let infuse for a week before using.
Note – avoid use on granite surfaces
(recipe from Good Housekeeping)
Homemade Body Lotion Recipe
2 Tbsp (1oz) beeswax pellets
¼ cup (2oz) each of coconut oil, almond oil and jojoba oil
¾ cup (3oz) distilled water
¾ cup (3oz) aloe (optional)
1 tsp lecithin
20-40 drops of essential oil of your choice (e.g., lavender, orange, eucalyptus, etc)
1. In a heat-safe glass bowl, combine the beeswax pellets, coconut oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil.
2. Place the glass bowl on top of a saucepan filled partially with water over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the beeswax is melted and the oil are combined.
3. In a separate saucepan, combine the water and aloe. Heat to warm.
4. Once the oils are melted together, stir in the lecithin to the oil mixture. Let cool to room temperature (or slightly above room temperature), or until the mixture is cloudy, creamy, and thick but still in a liquid state. Do not let mixture solidify.
5. Using a whisk, slowly whip the water/aloe mixture in the oil/lecithin. Mix by hand until smooth and well combined.
6. Add the essential oils to the whipped mixture. Stir gently to combine.
7. Pour the lotion into a jar and store in the refrigerator, or away from light and heat. When refrigerated, the lotion will keep for about 4 weeks.
Note – You can try different oils in different combinations, depending on your skin’s needs. You could also try using cocoa butter or vitamin E oil. If using vitamin E oil, add it to the cooled oil mixture just before step 5.
(Recipe courtesy of the Institute for Functional Medicine: www.ifm.org)
Be sure to comment below if you’ve got any DIY hacks for safer toiletries and cleaning products!
1) Vojdani A. 2014. doi: 10.1155/2014/437231
2) Dodson RE et al. 2012. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104052
3) Trantallidi M et al. 2015. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.05.123