Handwashing and house cleaning may PROTECT you from harmful chemicals

The best reason to tidy your house: Cleaning products protect you from dangerous chemicals in your furniture, study finds

  • Furniture – especially older pieces – is often coated in fire retardant chemicals that disrupt DNA, hormones and reproductive health 
  • Though some cleaning supplies are similarly harmful to humans, new research shows that keeping a tidy house and washing your hands reduces retardants
  • Just a week of regular cleaning cut the levels of retardant in the urine of the Columbia University study participants in half 

Cleaning your house will actually protect you from toxic chemical, new research claims.

Some household cleaning products themselves pose health risks, but vacuuming, mopping, dusting and even washing your hands can reduce the levels of poisonous fire retardant that get into your system. 

The fire retardant, called Tris, has been linked to hormonal disruptions and infertility. 

Just by washing your hands, however, you can lower the levels of Tris in your system by 31 percent and cleaning diminished the chemical by about half, a new small study from  Columbia University suggests.

Washing your hands and cleaning your home can help to reduce levels of Tris, a toxic fire retardant chemical used on furniture that can disrupt hormones and may cause infertility 

In the US, certain products are required by law to be treated with flame retardant chemicals, like Tris. 

Tris, however, was banned from being used in children’s pajamas back in 1977. 

In animal experiments, the chemical was shown to corrupt DNA. 

It may be gone from clothes, but Tris is still commonly used in to protect furniture from flames, especially on older pieces, meaning that many people’s houses. 

When researchers at Columbia University tested urine of 32 women, they found traces of Tris in almost everyone’s samples. 

In order to reduce the harmful health effects of the chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that Americans should wash their hands and clean their homes regularly. 

The Columbia researchers wanted to see if these simple measures actually worked to minimize the toxins. 

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So they split the study participants into two groups.

For a week, half of the women regularly cleaned their houses while the other half implemented a handwashing regimen. 

After just that single week, Tris levels were nearly cut in half in the urine of the women that had been cleaning their homes diligently. 

The hand-washing group saw significant decreases in their Tris levels too. Their urine contained 31 percent less of the substance. 

During a second week, the participants all had to both clean and wash their hands. Combining the two measures, their Tris levels fell an average of 43 percent down from their baseline levels. 

Women whose Tris levels were highest saw even more dramatic improvements, with their Tris levels plummeting 62 percent. 

‘The results imply that both handwashing and house cleaning can be effective ways to reduce exposure to flame retardants and this evidence supports the EPA’s recommendations,’ said Elizabeth Gibson, a PhD student at Columbia and the study’s first author. 

But everyone in the study still had detectable Tris in their urine at the end of the study. 

In recent years, furniture-makers have been moving away from using chemicals like Tris which offers some hope we may soon rid our bodies of it.   

‘As people replace their old furniture, we’ve seen a reduction in exposures to the earlier generation of flame retardants,’ said Dr Julie Herbstman, the study’s senior author. 

‘Going forward, it’s important that we continue to study new organophosphate flame retardants to understand what they do to our health and how to protect ourselves, both on an individual and population level,’ she added. 

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