Phthalates, galaxolide,1,4-dioxane, toluene, 2-butoxyethanol, methoxydiglycol (DEGBE), formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform, and ditallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (DTDMAC) - what are all these crazy words? And no, they aren't the names of planets in an awesome Sci-Fi universe. These are just a few of the names out of the multitude of harmful chemicals that are used in our homes, offices and schools. These chemicals are lurking in our everyday household cleaners.
Why is this important? Because many of these chemicals are classified as carcinogens (cancer-causing), endocrine disruptors (negatively impacting sex hormones, thyroid hormones, etc.), neurotoxins (damaging to the brain and nervous system), and respiratory irritants (causing lung issues, asthma and allergies). Exposure to these chemicals can lead to serious health issues, especially when exposure occurs in growing and developing children. Let's review some facts:
Scary Chemical facts:
· 17,000 – number of petrochemicals available for home use, only 30% of which have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment
· 63 – number of synthetic chemical products found in the average American home – equivalent to 10 gallons of harmful chemicals
· 100 – the number of times higher indoor air pollution can be than outdoor air pollution levels, according to the EPA
· 275 – number of active ingredients in antimicrobials that the EPA classifies as pesticides because they are designed to kill microbes
· 5 billion – the number of pounds of chemicals that the institutional cleaning industry uses each year
· 23 – the average gallons of chemicals that a janitor uses each year, 25% of which are hazardous
· 7 – the percentage of household cleaners that ADEQUATELY disclose their contents
So how can we keep our homes and workplaces clean and NOT use all this scary stuff?
· Employ green cleaning products – non-toxic, biodegradable, made from renewable resources. Common brands you see in stores include: Method, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Green Works, Dr. Bronner’s, Ecos, and Earth Friendly Products. Or you can make your own (see below)!
· Avoid poor indoor air quality – air inside can be more toxic than the air without; open windows as often as possible, especially when cleaning.
· Be careful about antibacterial cleaners – FDA studies have shown they don’t clean hands any better than soap/water, and they add to risk of creating “super germs” that are resistant to chemicals.
· Baking soda – not only does this remove smells from refrigerator, but also can be used in other areas of the home to remove odors
· Toss toxic cleaners appropriately – community recycling days
· Avoid conventional dry cleaners – dry cleaners often use the solvent Perchloroethylene (perc), which is toxic and creates smog; green dry cleaners exist and use far safer methods.
Recipes for making your own green cleaning products:
Porcelain and Tile/Kitchen
1. Baking soda and water – dust surfaces with baking soda then scrub with a moist towel or sponge. For tougher grime, sprinkle on some sea salt and scrub. For tough stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and let sit for a while before removing. This can also be used on kitchen counters, stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, refrigerators, etc.
2. Lemon juice or vinegar – stains, mildew, or grease streaks can be tackled by spraying one of these on, letting it sit for a few minutes, and scrub with a stiff brush.
1. Disinfectant – instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap, and 20-30 drops of tea tree oil. Because tea tree oil is a natural anti-microbial, this is great for kitchen counters and cutting boards, etc.
Windows and Mirrors
1. White vinegar, water, and newspaper – mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water and dispense with a spray bottle. Then wipe with newspaper, which doesn’t streak like paper towels do.
Odor Absorption/Air Fresheners
1. Baking soda - sprinkle on carpets and rugs and leave sit for several minutes, then vacuum up to naturally deodorize.
2. Boil cloves, lemon rinds, cinnamon sticks in water on the stove top to permeate your home with wonderful smells.
3. Essential oils - these oils have a multitude of health benefits, but used in a diffuser they can fill your home with amazing, and therapeutic, smells.
Not only is staying on top of keeping our homes clean a difficult (and not fun!) task at times, we are often unknowingly using hazardous and harmful chemicals to do so. Using more natural means, whether purchased or made from scratch, can help to keep our families safe and healthy!
Have questions or looking for more information? The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful website (www.ewg.org) that "grades" all kinds of household products, and has "best" and "worst" lists to make finding the right products easier.