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Are Your Household Cleaners Making Your Pet Sick?

November 18, 2010

a silver tabby stands on a robin egg blue floor vacuum while a yellow lab rests his head on the vacuum

Clean with Confidence!

Some Pets Suffer In Spite of Your Best Efforts

Doc Truli came across a scientific report that might explain why some pets are still itchy and miserable after all of your best efforts.

Maybe you have tried the allergy diet trial.  Maybe you cook for your pet.  Maybe your cat is ripping her fur out and still itchy after seeing the dermatologist several times. Maybe you’ve done the gammit of allergy investigation and treatment. Maybe your veterinary behavior specialist has tried 3 or 4 drugs on your pet thinking that he or she is “crazy.”  Maybe your dog only feels okay if he takes daily prednisone, and you cannot fathom why he’s still allergic.

Are Scented Products Safe and Enjoyable for Your Pet?

Many people cannot stand scented products.  For some, it gets so bad, their bodies become universal reactors.  This debilitating, isolating, and misunderstood condition is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Any chemicals set some people into migraines, hives, and excruciating pain.  They usually end up living in special housing with strict control of the products they use.  These people can get sick from touching a new shirt in a store that has a cotton protectant on it to prevent soiling during the shipping and sales process.  A universal reactor responds to the chemicals and poisons the rest of us just “live with.”  (Please see the links in the comment generously provided by Sharon Wachsler regarding MCS.  In light of Sharon’s comments, Doc Truli reconsidered the tone and content of this post and re-wrote it.)

If you have never experienced a migraine from touching a cotton shower curtain treated with teflon, or felt like you had the flu and 1,000 pounds of weight on your whole body  because a handyman sprayed for ants in your apartment, you might think this is melodramatic.

It is not!  Ever try to read the label on window cleaner?  Laundry detergent?  Dryer sheets?  Dish soap? Dishwasher detergent? Drain decloggers?  Go look under your kitchen sink right now!

(You’re back quick!)

No ingredients, right?  Or a tiny list of one or two, and that’s it! (Doc Truli recently bought Martha Stewart brand counter spray at Home Depot.  Gasp!  It listed the ingredients!  Maybe they’re all there…)

What’s the deal?  US Federal law does not require ingredient labeling on household products.  You read right.  They put lots of stuff in there, and no one has the right to require manufacturers to tell us what’s in there!

If it smells to you, what do you think your cat or dog smells?

Three cute dogs look sad because of harsh chemicals they can smell in your household cleaners.

Can't you smell that, mommy?

Dogs can smell breast cancer before a pathologist can see it under the microscope.  With a nose that sensitive, do you think your household cleaners smell a little strong?  Do you think your dog enjoys your dryer sheets?   Ever see a dog sneeze as you shake out the sheets to make the bed?

How about your perfume?

How about the air freshener in the car on the way to the vet’s office?  Don’t you get a tiny headache the first day you put the thing in the car?

Imagine if the lining of your dog’s nose was spread out flat.  It would cover a football field.  Doc means world football (soccer to the US), not NFL stuff.  A whole field being assaulted by your cosmetics, cleaners, and scents.

So what?

Fabulous Study Looks at Household Scented Products

You know what they found?

Of 133 chemicals detected in 25 products, which were the leading best-selling brands on the market,
25% of those chemicals are toxic or hazardous under federal law.  More than a third of the products emitted at least one probable carcinogen according to EPA standards.

All products tested emitted at least one toxic or hazardous chemical!

Now the kicker that got VirtuaVet’s attention: half of the products tested were labelled “organic,” “natural,” or “green!”

“Surprisingly, the green products’ emissions of hazardous chemicals were not significantly different from the other products,” said lead author Anne Steinemann, UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs.

So, really, what’s bothering your pets?

Reconsider Your Products

Lock up your scented products for a month or two. Food allergy tests take 8 weeks.  Therefore, two months is a reasonable amount of test time for a “scent” test.

The study authors were clear to point out that they could not publish the product names because they did not want to seem to imply that those products tested were any worse than any other products on the market.

Do you understand?

They mean, all the products could all be bad.

There is legislation proposed in Congress to require complete labeling of household products.

The study authors suggest we try vinegar, baking soda, open the windows to ventilate while cleaning, and perhaps try products with no fragrance. You may have a transition period in which you feel like things do not “smell clean” because you are used to pine or lemon or whatever scent signifies clean to you.

But, remember, the products tested all emitted at least one chemical known to be toxic, and half emitted a carcinogenic chemical.  Perhaps you will finally break the cycle of allergic insanity in your pet.  Who knows?  Maybe your life will become easier and happier once the scented products are no longer challenging your system with toxins!


Science News Daily: Scented Consumer Products Shown to Emit Many Unlisted Chemicals

H.R.3057 – Household Product Labeling Act of 2009: To require that household cleaning products and similar products bear a label that contains a complete and accurate list of all the product’s ingredients.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 5:57 pm

    Over the last several years, I have made a big effort to “green” my whole life. I don’t have nearly the reactions that Sharon describes, but I still find artificial fragrances have never smelled good to me and I feel vaguely sick when exposed to them. I no longer use any commercial cleaning products ( just vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, make my own laundry soap) and stick with “kitchen cupboard” cosmetics. This was because of my interest in going green. Then accelerated because of my small dog that I adore who definitely has some allergies — and I want her to be happy and healthy and with us for a long long time — and finally, because I developed estrogen receptor breast cancer and my husband developed diabetes 2 years ago. For other readers thinking you can’t do it, believe me, you can. You will save money, you will feel better, you will be helping the earth and preserving your own health and that of your loved ones, including your pets. For those of you that really enjoy fragrances, the essential oils offer a complete palate of options. I’ll climb down off my soapbox now and close by saying I appreciate Doc Truli’s series on allergies and Sharon sharing her personal experience. Very compelling!

  2. November 19, 2010 12:00 am

    Phew! Thank you so much! I shocked and dismayed, because I think of you as a friend and kindred spirit. I am so glad to know that I misinterpreted your intent!
    I am also very glad that you are no longer so sick!
    I do think that saying that the medical establishment is “divided” is a better way to put it.
    It’s also worth noting that many of those who support the notion that MCS is psychogenic — such as those who get paid to testify in court against MCSers or those who write “studies” on MCS (often a case history of a single individual) work for the chemical industry.

  3. November 18, 2010 9:57 pm

    Doc Truli,

    When I first saw the title to your post, I was delighted. It’s terrific that you are educating people that scented cleaning and personal care products can be dangerous to our dogs’ and cats’ health.

    However, I was dismayed to read your comments about MCS. I think it is misleading to say that MCS is an “illegitimate diagnosis” and that “most physicians believe this is quackery.” In fact, there is mounting evidence, evidence that is convincing many physicians and scientists, of the very real existence — supported by scientific discoveries, such as time-dependent sensitization discovered in mice — of mechanisms behind MCS. I hope that you will learn more about this.

    As someone who lives with MCS, and who used to be a universal reactor, I can tell you that while the theoretical idea of MCS may be fascinating to someone who isn’t affected by it, the reality of this disease for those of us who live with it is disabling and isolating. The only thing worse than feeling sick any time you are exposed to chemicals or fragrances is having others tell you you are not really sick — or that you are mentally ill, instead of physically ill. It adds to the isolation.
    (My MCS story is here:

    It’s also very dangerous for people with MCS when others don’t believe us. For example, I knew a woman whose neighbor didn’t believe her MCS was real, and to “prove” it, he sprayed pesticide in his yard; my colleage went into organ failure and died as a result. In another case, a man with MCS was forcibly committed to a mental hospital, because he was not believed that his symptoms were caused by chemical exposures, his illness deemed psychogenic; he was given medications (which made him sicker) and also, forced to live in an institutional setting full of chemical fumes (cleaning products, etc.), died in that institution.

    I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls I’ve received from distraught people with MCS whose family, friends, coworkers, employers, neighbors, or physicians did not believe they had MCS and therefore did things to “test” them (or just to be mean), and as a result, these people lost their jobs or their homes (usually resulting in homelessness) or ended up in the ER due to respiratory or CNS emergencies.

    I have learned so much from you on pet health. If you are going to mention a serious disability facing *humans,* do your homework first, please.

    Here are some respected sources of medical and scientific information on MCS:

    Thank you for listening.

    • November 18, 2010 11:50 pm

      Dear Sharon,

      I re-worded my post to more clearly say what I mean. I did not realize how I could be misunderstood. I personally 100% know people become universal reactors, as I was almost a universal reactor myself for several years. Every meal gave me a migraine, even if it was just turkey and rice, and I was bedridden 22 hours a day. I am stubborn, and luckily refused to take any medications, and no one institutionalized me as my family was supportive. I ended up purging any artificial products, fibers, or anything synthetic from my life and maintaining a strict Vegan diet for 7 years until energy and vitality returned. I was lucky. Most people I know with MCS continue to suffer. It’s a shame that the chemicals are legal and in widespread use when they affect everyone adversely, even if only some people are debilitated by those poisons.

      As you explained, there are medical professionals who deny the existence of MCS so vehemently, saying it’s “all in your head,” that they will directly cause the death of a person through their willful denial of another person’s reality. My wish is that everyone understood the toxicity of the chemicals and stopped their production and use.

      I apologize if I caused anyone, especially MCS sufferers, distress, or worse. Thank you for the links that many readers will find helpful, and perhaps life-saving. I know if takes great effort for you to write and you are very giving of yourself to respond to the post as you have.

      Thank you,
      -Doc Truli


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