Household Chemicals Impact on Brain and Overall Health

How Common Household Chemicals Are Linked to Neurological Disorders

We rely on various products to keep our home spotless, free of bacteria, and picture-perfect. However, not all products are safe to use. Some of them contain chemicals that may put our health in danger. In fact, some household chemicals can contribute to neurological disorders. Read on to learn more.

Key Facts

  • Exposure to certain household chemicals can impair or destroy oligodendrocytes
    The most recent study evaluated 1823 chemicals in total
  • Two household chemicals can harm oligodendrocytes (quaternary ammonium compounds and organophosphate flame retardant
  • These chemicals don’t affect other brain cells, except oligodendrocytes
    Household chemicals could contribute to multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum conditions, and attention deficit disorders.

Household Chemicals Impact on Brain Health

Increased prevalence of neurological disorders isn’t just due to better diagnostic methods and tests, but factors such as exposure to some household chemicals. The March 2024 issue of Nature Neuroscience published a study whose main objective was to assess a few environmental chemicals for potential risks for oligodendrocytes, cells of the central nervous system (CNS).

The study evaluated the impact of multiple chemicals on isolated oligodendrocytes, organoid systems, and the developing brains of mice. They generated oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) from mouse stem cells and exposed them to 1823 different chemicals to determine whether they affected their ability to develop into oligodendrocytes. Over 80% of chemicals didn’t influence the development of these brain cells. That said, 292 chemicals killed oligodendrocytes, and 47 blocked the generation of these cells.

The results showed that organophosphate flame retardants and quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) damaged or destroyed oligodendrocytes. Interestingly, these chemicals didn’t affect other brain cells.

Just a reminder, organophosphate flame retardants are used in varnishes, dyes, synthetic resins, adhesives, textiles, plastics, and hydraulic fluids. On the flip side, QACs are found in some disinfectants and cleaning products used primarily in homes, hospitals, daycare centers, and restaurants.

Results also showed that QACs can successfully cross the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in brain tissue. These chemicals may endanger the developing brain. Moreover, organophosphate flame retardants can reduce the number of mature oligodendrocytes by 70% and OPCs by 30%. That means these household chemicals can prevent the maturation of specific brain cells.

Exposure to these chemicals can contribute to the development of neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders. These disorders may include autism spectrum conditions, multiple sclerosis, and attention deficit disorders. That happens because the loss of oligodendrocytes plays a role in multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

Health Hazards of Household Chemicals

Household chemicals can put your health in danger through several mechanisms. Their effects go beyond impaired brain health and a higher risk of neurological disorders. Hazards associated with the use of household chemicals include:

  • Irritation: household chemicals such as bleach, antibacterial cleaners, window and glass cleaners, and an all-purpose cleaner can irritate your skin, nose, eyes, and throat.
  • Respiratory problems: inhalation of fumes from bleach, oven and drain cleaners, and other products can cause respiratory irritation and, even, respiratory distress.
  • Worsening of asthma: some household products contain harsh ingredients that may trigger or worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Nausea and vomiting: inhalation or ingestion of certain household chemicals can lead to nausea and vomiting.
  • Cancer risk: long-term exposure to certain household chemicals can increase the risk of cancer including lung cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.
  • Cardiovascular problems: studies show that some chemicals from household products are linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

Evidence confirms that exposure to household chemicals is associated with endocrine disruption and may lead to neurodevelopment in children.


A recent study found that certain household chemicals can impair or destroy brain cells that play a role in the development of neurological disorders. You can minimize exposure to these chemicals by shopping wisely. Read the label and always opt for products that contain primarily natural ingredients.