Safety at Home – with Products
What the labels on common cleaning products don’t tell you
Many familiar cleaners lining store shelves and the shelves in your cupboards at home contain hidden and not-so-hidden dangers. Laws requiring manufacturers to disclose the existence and possible side effects of contaminants are lax, offering you and your family insufficient safeguards. The flammable, explosive, poison and corrosive warnings on bottles, cartons and cans tell only half of the story. In recent years, the level of serious health problems associated with using familiar home cleaning and maintenance products has skyrocketed, and today, health specialists, consumer advocates and concerned citizens are starting to fill in the blanks.
Today’s homes are more energy efficient than ever, which is a good thing. But even though better insulation keeps out the cold and the heat, it also ensures that whatever is released into the home environment stays there, and, over time, builds up. Think of that the next time you open a container of any number of common cleaners and start sneezing, coughing or have difficulty breathing, feel your nose prickling, or notice your skin reddening. We’re conditioned to believe that the caustic smell indicates a product’s cleaning power. But if its chemicals are strong enough to kill harmful microbes, what are they doing to the good ones we need to stay healthy, and what happens when they get onto or into our bodies? Most of these products focus primarily on killing the bacteria and/or germs that reside on dirt and dust, and although they also may remove a lot of the offending particles, they don’t necessarily scoop up all of them. They then replace what they lift with a chemical residue that can be just as compromising to your health. Children, with their undeveloped immune systems, are particularly at risk.
What the labels on common cleaning products don’t tell you
- 85% of product warning labels are either inadequate or incorrect in identifying a poison or offering first aid instructions.
- Indoor air is 3 to 70 times more polluted then outdoor air.
- Of the 75,000 synthetic chemicals that have been developed since the Second World War, less than half have been tested for toxicity to humans. Very few have been tested for long-term effects.
- Products must list active ingredients, but not the (often-significant) number of inert chemicals they contain.
- More than 150 toxic substances linked to cancer float around in the average home.
- The human body can absorb chemicals left behind by household products several months after they were used.
- “Volatile organics” are chemicals that rapidly evaporate into the air at room temperature, contributing to multiple chemical sensitivity and a range of symptoms including breathing problems, depression and fatigue, autoimmune disorders, a “flu-ish” feeling, and many other complications. Many detergents and cleaning supplies contain volatile organics.
- 2.2 million people have asthma, including 1 in 6 children and 1 in 10 adults Experts cite household chemicals as a factor.
- Formaldehyde, phenol, benzene, toluene, xylene can cause cancer and erode the immune system. They are in many household cleaners.
- Naptha depresses the central nervous system. Diethanolsamine is a possible liver poison. Chlorophenylphenol is a metabolic stimulant and considered toxic. All three chemicals are common to most dishwashing detergents.
- Most air fresheners don’t clean the air. They either coat your nose with an oily film or release a chemical that deadens the nerves we use to smell.
- Poisoning has been identified as one of the major causes of childhood and adolescence hospital emergency presentations and admissions in most developed countries including the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.
- Indoor chemical “pollution” can contribute to allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, circulatory disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, hormonal problems, fertility problems and sudden infant death syndrome.
The following is recommended to make your home healthier:
- For regular day-to-day cleaning use microfibre clothes and mop-covers with water only. Try on counter tops, sinks, appliances, floors, mirrors, etc. Add a few drops of Tea Tree oil for extra anti-bacterial properties.
- Clean more often with less products.
- Instead of focusing on killing germs and bacteria, focus on getting rid of the carriers. Use microfibre cloths and mop-covers, instead of cloth or paper. Microfibre is far more effective in picking up dust, dirt, hairs and lint, and microbes!
- Avoid using anything with a strong chemical smell.
- If you use chemicals, always store all your cleaning products high up in a closed cupboard in a temperate, well-ventilated room used specifically for storage.
Try switching to natural, environmentally safe cleaning products
Try using some of the homemade solutions that worked very well for Grandma such as:
- Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate. It has a number of useful properties. It can neutralize acid, scrub shiny materials without scratching, deodorize, and extinguish grease fires. It can be used as a deodorizer in the refrigerator, on smelly carpets, on upholstery and on vinyl. It can help deodorize drains. It can clean and polish aluminum, chrome, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel, and tin. It also softens fabrics and removes certain stains. Baking soda can soften hard water and makes a relaxing bath time soak; it can be used as an underarm deodorant and as a toothpaste, too.
- Lemon Juice, which contains citric acid, is a deodorant and can be used to clean glass and remove stains from aluminum, clothes, and porcelain. It is a mild lightener or bleach if used with sunlight.
- Essential Oils such as Tea Tree or Lavender have many properties needed for cleaning. They are antibacterial, antiviral and can be used in your home made cleaning products.
- Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, soluble in water. It can deodorize, inhibit the growth of mildew and mold, boost the cleaning power of soap or detergent, remove stains, and can be used with attractants such as sugar to kill cockroaches.
- Soap (NOT detergent) is made in several ways. Castile soap can be used as a shampoo or as a body soap. Olive oil soap is gentlest to the skin. An all-purpose liquid soap can be made by simple dissolving the old ends of bar soap (or grated slivers of bar soap) in warm water.
- Cornstarch, derived from corn, can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs, and starch clothes.
- Isopropyl Alcohol is an excellent disinfectant.
- Vinegar is made from soured applied juice, grain, or wine. It contains about 5 percent acetic acid, which makes it a mild acid. Vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits, grease, remove traces of soap, remove mildew or wax buildup, polish some metals, and deodorize. Vinegar can clean brick or stone, and is an ingredient in some natural carpet cleaning recipes. Use vinegar to clean out the metallic taste in coffeepots and to shine windows without streaking. Vinegar is normally used in a solution with water, but it can be used straight.
- Steel Wool is an abrasive strong enough to remove rust and stubborn food residues and to scour barbeque grills.