Danger Lurking Under Your Sink
Have you ever thought twice about the cleaning products you use in your house?
Most of us are inundated with cleverly packaged commercials for “miracle” cleaning
products that just happen to be full of chemical toxins.
When you take a closer look, you will quickly see that these products are highly dangerous. Exposure to household chemicals found in soaps, detergents, bleaching agents, polishes, and specialty glass, oven, and bathroom cleaners can cause serious reactions and contribute to indoor air pollution.
According to US Poison Control Centers, cleaning products may be responsible for up to 10% of all toxic exposures.
Philip Dickey of the Washington Toxics Coalition confirms that the most dangerous cleaning
products are oven cleaners, acidic toilet bowl cleaners, and corrosive drain cleaners.
These products contain highly volatile corrosive chemicals that can burn the skin and eyes, as well as the throat and esophagus when ingested. Bleach and ammonia are other well-known cleaning agents of high toxicity that emit fumes, which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs; mixing bleach and ammonia can be fatal. These chemicals are especially dangerous to adults and children with existing health issues, like asthma, lung, or heart problems.
Other household chemicals may not have immediate health effects, like irritation, but can release low levels of toxins into the surrounding environment. Some all-purpose cleaners react to create carcinogens that absorb through the skin.
Other cleaners contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that may cause long-term health effects including decreased sperm count, increased male birth defects, and increased rates of some cancers.
With these potential dangers in mind, it’s more important than
ever to pay attention to the chemicals you keep in your house.
Take special care in using and storing these
“10 Most Wanted Household Chemicals”:
May contain formaldehyde, which increases cancer risk and can irritate skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. Air fresheners can also affect sense of smell as they coat nasal passages with a film.
Fumes will irritate eyes and lungs and can burn skin; ammonia produces a deadly gas when mixed with chlorine cleaning products. (Never mix ammonia with chlorine bleach under any circumstance.)
Can corrode skin, nose and mouth lining, and throat; fumes are irritating to eyes and lungs. (Never mix bleach with any other cleaner, especially ammonia.)
May contain ammonia or isopropanol; ammonia emits irritating fumes, andisopropanol can cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, and death when ingested.
May contain perchloroethylene that emits fumes to cause dizziness, nausea, and disorientation; also increases cancer risk over the long-term.
Can cause skin irritation or burns, as well as irritation of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract. Chlorine-containing dry dishwasher detergents are the number one cause of child poisoning.
May contain chlorine and can cause breathing problems; some heavy-duty mold and mildew cleaners may also contain known carcinogen and toxin formaldehyde.
Cationic detergents can cause nausea, vomiting, shock, and coma when swallowed. Brands that contain sodium tripolyphosphate can irritate the skin as the chemical is easily absorbed through clothing.
May include sodium bisulfate that burns the skin or oxalic acid that can damage the kidneys and liver, irritate eyes and lungs, and corrode mouth and stomach.
Can increase risk of skin and lung cancer and is highly flammable. Some furniture polish brands may contain nitrobenzene—highly toxic and easily absorbed through skin.
BECOME A LABEL READER
Look for signal words on labels and choose the least hazardous product
Safeguard Your Home
Conventional brands contain butyl cellosolve, glycol ether and aldehydes, which all have toxic effects on women’s health and offspring.
Substitute Whole Foods Market All-Purpose Cleaner.
Hand dishwashing liquid contains dioxane and disinfectants linked with women’s breast health issues.
Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid tests toxin-free.
Using butyl cellosolve and glycol ethers can get the job done but poses toxic effects on women’s bodies and their offsping.
Window Cleaner from Earth Friendly Products works as well and is safe, for the same price.
Brands like Gain and Tide contain traces or more of dioxane, a cancer-causing chemical and water pollutant.
ECOS has been tested independently and confirmed to be dioxane-free.
Floor and Furniture Polish
Usually rich in solvents, these products can
affect the IQ of women’s offspring.
Martha Stewart Clean Wood Floor Cleaner is a nontoxic alternative.
Bathroom and Tub Cleaner
Bathroom and tub cleaners often contain
disinfectants linked with women’s health issues.
Choose Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner for a clean and healthy bathroom.
If you have been using chemical cleaning products for years, it’s easy to
think that these dangers could never happen to you
However, because of their innocuous nature in daily household use, it’s important to take commercial cleaners seriously and read all labels carefully. Chemical cleaners should be used sparingly, if at all, and kept in a safe, locked location if children are in the house.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency based on 2012 statistics, poison control centers receive one call every eight seconds. Sadly, the American Association of Poison Centers accounts that children under the age of six are responsible for more than half of the calls received.
Petrochemical cleaning products in the home are easily absorbed into the skin. Once absorbed, the toxins travel to the blood stream and are deposited in the fatty tissues where they may exist indefinitely.
“IN HARM’S WAY” – a study by The Clean Water Fund and
Physicians for Social Responsibility
What Are the Benefits of Green Cleaning?
Green cleaning is more than just a passing fad. It is a critical transition that every household
must make to reduce the toxic chemical load that burdens public health.
Here are some top benefits of eco-friendly cleaning to consider:
- Healthier family with less risk of chemical exposure and absorption from commercial products.
- Cleaner home and environment by reducing toxic chemicals released into water and air.
- Reduced risk of poisoning with safer products stored around the house.
- Improved air quality—especially important for children and adults with asthma, allergies, or respiratory issues.
- Reduced cost spent on expensive cleaning supplies when DIY products are used as alternatives.
- Less pollution and smog formation in outdoor air spaces by cutting down on volatile organic compound use in cleaning products.
- Reduced environmental waste when purchasing eco-friendly cleaners that are non-toxic and biodegradable.
Making the switch to green cleaning products is one important way to
protect our health and environment
True green cleaning products that meet strict environmental criteria are certified as being free from ozone-depleting chemicals; this means less toxic burden on aquatic life, the human body, and the environment.
Certified green cleaning products are guaranteed free of harmful chemicals like carcinogens and reproductive toxins; heavy metals, including chromium, lead, and selenium; 2-Butoxyethanol, a common ingredient that damages red blood cells; phthalates found in fragranced cleaners; and hormone-disrupting chemicals like alkylphenol ethoxylates.
Here are 10 hands-on green cleaning tips to cut down on household
Make Your Own DIY Green Cleaner
Apartment Therapy provides a simple list of basic DIY green cleaner ingredients that you
can mix up and keep in a safe place at home: Baking soda, white vinegar, borax, hydrogen
peroxide, castile soap, water, kosher salt, olive oil or vegetable oil, essential oils (including
eucalyptus, lemongrass, lavender, and tea tree), and fresh herbs (including citrus peel).
According to Apartment Therapy, using these ingredients in several different combinations will arm you with powerful, natural cleaning tools for a squeaky clean house—without the use of toxic chemicals.
You can mix up a quick bathroom cleaner made of baking soda, Borax, Castile soap, white vinegar, kosher salt, essential oils, and water to keep in a spray bottle for handy use. Or, whip up a kitchen cleaner by mixing vinegar, baking soda, lemon, essential oils, water, and dish soap.
When in Doubt, Stick with The Fantastic Four
You can create a number of natural household cleaners in different combinations using the ingredients above. Or, in a pinch, you can take the advice of How Stuff Works by relying on The Fantastic Four—vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and baking soda—to clean any household surface. Consider these four natural ingredients your “green cleaning kit.”
Clean Glass with
Ammonia is one of the most dangerous chemicals to have under your roof. Throw out glass cleaners made with ammonia and use 4 teaspoons of lemon juice mixed with a half-gallon of water instead. This special recipe cleans glass most effectively when wiping with an old T-shirt or rag instead of newspaper.
Stick with a Simple
Most all-purpose cleaners that you find at the supermarket are hardly simple; they may contain dozens of toxic chemical ingredients. As a handy alternative, mix nine parts water with one part vinegar to keep in a spray bottle at home. This all-purpose solution can be used to clean all surfaces; follow up vinegar spray with hydrogen peroxide to disinfect contaminants, such as a countertop where raw meat has been prepared.
Throw Out the
Chemical-based furniture polish can cause poisoning when swallowed or inhaled. Try a gentler, safer alternative by using equal parts lemon juice and olive oil; apply the mixture to a soft cloth and thoroughly rub down wooden furniture to polish.
Freshen Air Naturally
Air fresheners are unfortunately full of toxic chemicals that are released into the air, including the highly toxic carcinogen formaldehyde. Freshen air at home frequently and naturally by sprinkling your favorite essential oil on a cotton ball and placing it in the corner of a room. Remember to keep undiluted essential oils out of reach of children as they can cause skin irritation.
Ditch Antibacterial Cleaners
Even though antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaners and soaps have been heavily advertised, the FDA confirms that antibacterials don’t clean better than soap and water. Avoid unnecessary chemicals and use “old-fashioned” soap instead.
Don’t Waste Money on Dry Cleaners
Not only is dry cleaning expensive, but dry cleaners are also a top user of the industrial solvent perchloroethylene, or perc; perc creates smog and is toxic to humans. If necessary, look for a dry cleaner that uses eco-friendly cleaning methods or carefully clean delicates at home.
Take Your Shoes Off
at the Door
Do you even want to know what you have been dragging around on your shoes all day long? Asking friends and family to check shoes at the door will keep toxic chemicals and contaminants from antifreeze, animal feces, oil, pollen, and pollution from being tracked in the house.
Buy Certified Green Cleaning Products
Last of all, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing your cleaning products strategically. If you don’t have
time to make DIY cleaners, you can seek out biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products instead.
Remember to read labels carefully and watch out for clever eco-friendly advertising that may be
misleading, also called “greenwashing.” Even major manufacturers like Clorox now offer green cleaning
products lines, such as Green Seal certified Clorox Green Works made with biodegradable ingredients.
Mold is one of the most difficult household problems to remedy, even with the use of chemical cleaners. When left untreated, mold growing indoors can cause health problems by producing allergens and other potentially toxic substances, called mycotoxins. Treating mold is especially important if anyone in your house suffers from allergies, asthma, or other related health conditions.
Commercial mold cleaners may contain corrosive
chemicals that can irritate and burn the skin and eyes
In more severe cases, mold cleaners made with formaldehyde may cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, dizziness, memory loss, and shortness of breath.
The good news is that you can “green clean” household mold
without dangerous chemicals by using three easy guidelines:
Mold and mildew grow in damp spaces; according to the EPA, the most important step to take in natural mold eradication is ventilation. Open windows, turn on bathroom fans, and wipe down wet surfaces after showering so that mold doesn’t have an inviting place to grow.
Equal parts white vinegar and water sprayed on mold will stop it in its tracks. Spray the solution directly on the problem area and wipe well. Annie B. Bond, a green living activist, recommends undiluted white vinegar to kill up to 82% of household molds.
Last but not least, get tough on mold by scrubbing a surface, like a toilet bowl, directly with a solution of white vinegar and baking soda. Shower tile mold can be deep cleaned by hand scrubbing with half a lemon dipped in Borax. Rinse well and repeat if necessary.