Are disinfectants making you sick?

Most people use disinfectants to keep from getting sick. A report recently released by the national environmental health group, Women's Voices for the Earth, contends they may actually make you sick.

The report, "Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous to Our Health," cites more than 40 peer-reviewed reports and scientific studies that illustrate the health impacts of chemicals found in household disinfectants. The group contends that disinfectants are linked with chronic illnesses and conditions such as asthma, hormone imbalance and immune system problems.

The industry has maintained that its chemicals are safe to use. Within reason, of course. Many products also list warnings about breathing the vapors or letting the substance come into contact with your skin or mucous membranes.

Chemicals reviewed in the report include chlorine bleach, ammonia, Triclosan and Triclocarban, ammonium quarternary compounds and nano-silver.

Not that they don't work on household surfaces. It's just that they have other effects as well, the report finds.

"Just as you wouldn't use a sledgehammer to kill a fly, we're advocating for people to use disinfecting products only when the situation calls for them," WVE Executive Director Erin Switalski says in a statement. "Consumers need to know that the harsh chemicals found in disinfectants are simply too strong for everyday use all over the house."

WVE suggests using alternatives like borax and vinegar and simply washing your hands more often with hot water and regular soap.

"Antimicrobial chemicals available in the home today were initially developed for hospital and clinical settings, but for the vast majority of people, the home does not need to be as sterile as an operating room," says registered nurse Susan Luck, director of the Integrative Nursing Institute, in the WVE announcement about the report.

The report includes an index of cleaning products that contain the disinfecting chemicals of concern. It's available at

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