10/18/2011 08:23 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2011

5 Health Dangers Under Your Sink

Just 50 years ago, most chemicals found under our sinks existed only in chemistry labs. Today, we consider them essential to modern life. We're in the habit of grabbing the same "pine fresh" cleaning products -- without pausing to consider the hazards we are bringing into our homes.

With more than 2 million poisonings reported each year, it's vitally important to stop and rethink what we're using to clean our homes. The trouble is that sometimes you don't even know when you're buying a hazardous product. Manufacturers are not required to list all of their ingredients, unless they're active disinfectants or known to be potentially hazardous. So the first line of defense is to avoid cleaners marked "danger," "corrosive" or "may cause burns." The second step is to watch out for specific chemicals known to cause damage through inhalation, ingestion or absorption. Here are five of the most common offenders.

Top 5 Greatest Dangers Under Your Sink

Choosing Safe Products

Okay, we've learned what to avoid. Now what can we use instead?

First, let me let you in on a secret. Some of the companies that make cleaning products with those scary chemicals already know we're worried about them. They're rushing as many of their own allegedly "green" products into the marketplace as they can. That's good news, right? Well, now we have a new problem. The use of unsupported claims is becoming the norm. I don't know about you, but I've been lured in by meaningless descriptions like "eco-friendly," "all natural" and "earth smart" on labels. Those fresh spring meadows wrapped around a box of toxic chemicals can be so deceptive.

The best rule of thumb is to choose products made with plant-based ingredients, instead of petroleum-based. Microfiber cloths and mops are excellent at attracting dirt and bacteria and usually don't require any cleaning solutions -- just water, so they're a great choice too.

Now you can throw away that full body hazmat suit and get busy cleaning without poisonous products.

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