When you clean your house, do you think about how safe your products are-for you and the environment? Many cleaners on the market claim to be “green,” but are they really?
Caution! Toxic if swallowed! Corrosive! Keep out of reach of children! A quick scan of products in the cleaning aisle reveals alarming warnings, but even if you “use as instructed,” are you and your family safe?
Chemicals and Their Consequences
Although only 1% of the bacteria in our homes can actually make us sick, we have become ‘clean freaks’-with dire consequences. The use of antibacterial cleaners has resulted in stronger, more resistant bacteria. Asthma, chronic headaches, dizziness, reproductive problems, allergies, skin inflammation and irritation-even poisoning and developmental issues in children-have all been linked to breathing in, or coming into contact with, the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products.
The solvent nitrobenzene, for example, decreases the body’s ability to carry oxygen through the bloodstream-even low levels of exposure can cause fatigue, weakness, headache, and dizziness. Higher levels of exposure can result in troubled breathing, vision issues, and even coma. Studies show that long-term inhalation has caused cancer, reproductive disorders, and nervous system failure in laboratory animals.
Phosphates harm our environment. Found in conventional dish soaps, cleaners, and laundry detergents, these drain into our aquatic ecosystems and cause a tremendous overgrowth of algae. As the algae die, oxygen-consuming bacteria form and kill other organisms, resulting in “dead zones.” Although wastewater treatment plants do remove some phosphates, a significant amount still pours into our waterways each day.
The American Thoracic Society states that using conventional cleaning sprays just once a week may increase the chances of developing adult asthma, and be responsible for as many as one in seven incidents of adult asthma.
Testing by the US Environmental Protection Agency found that the air inside a typical American home is two to five times more polluted than the air immediately outside, and as much as 100% more contaminated-a direct result of the overuse of chemical cleaners.
Did you know that manufacturers are only required to list ingredients that are active or potentially hazardous (such as a flammable or explosive)-not those that may be detrimental to health?
In 2010, the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative was launched to invite companies to disclose all ingredients used in their cleaning products. To date, only a handful of companies-like Seventh Generation and Ecover-have participated. Many others ‘greenwash,’ or promote the perception of being environmentally friendly.
Greenwashing warning signs:
- Using product names and natural imagery to evoke an eco-friendly feel.
- Using terms like “non-toxic,” “natural,” and “environmentally friendly,” which are unregulated and available for use, regardless of validity. Only claims pertaining to a product’s purpose are regulated. For example, whether or not a lime scale remover actually removes lime scale.
- Reducing the amount of harmful chemical ingredients-even by the slightest fraction-and then claiming that the product is now “green.”
- Spending advertising money to distract the consumer from the unappealing aspects of a product or practice.
So how can you choose wisely?
Natural cleaners are just as effective at removing dirt and bacteria from household surfaces as their conventional counterparts-without contributing to antibacterial resistance.
Try a brand like Ecover, Seventh Generation, or Nature Clean for excellent, chemical-free dish liquid, dishwasher and laundry detergent, all purpose and bathroom cleaners, and scrubs-or find excellent, economical cleaners in your own pantry:
- Baking soda is a great all-purpose cleaner. Use on its own or mixed with water, castile soap, and essential oils to create a chemical-free scrub for tubs, toilets, and countertops. It also removes red wine and coffee stains.
- Grapefruit seed extract mixed with water makes a great mold and mildew spray.
- White vinegar kills germs and works well on linoleum floors and glass. Apply to a microfibre cloth dampened with water-and the cloth can be rinsed and used again and again.
Make a clean-green-sweep today…you’ll be glad you did.