We share a common knowledge that household cleaners are toxic in large doses. When considering the frequency in which you wipe your counters down, wash your hands and dishes, or clean a pet stain, it’s possible that you could be poisoning your family slowly through the indirect ingestion and inhalation of toxic chemicals in cleaning products.
It’s assumed that if it is brought to market, a cleaning product must have gone through specific rigorous testing. However, studies done by the Environmental Working Group on the manufacturing of household cleaning products has shown that ingredients in products are not required to meet any kind of safety standard before being brought to market, and often omit many of their ingredients from labeling.
In an effort to dispel the falsified comfort level people have when using household cleaners, I’ve provided a list of ingredients for review. I hope to make my readers confront the reality of the side-effects that occur from exposure to these harmful ingredients, and utilize cleaning alternatives that can reduce hidden toxins in your home.
The Green Lie
First and foremost, keep in mind that most products claiming to be “green” are just being commercially designed to appeal to consumers. This comes with the recent interest hike in green products, and was bound to occur as a result of companies trying to save money, yet appear as providing an elevated product. Trusted alternative products are those provided by companies like Clean Well, Seventh Generation, and Citra Solv, which you can purchased in Staten Island’s local stores, like: Target, Staples, Stop and Shop, Taste Buds, Walgreens and Shop Rite.
1. Air Fresheners and Fragrances
Cleaning products that include the vague word “fragrances” on their labelling are most likely omitting the dangerous ingredient phthalates. Phthalates are in soaps, air fresheners, countertop cleaners, plastics, lotions, and even perfumes. Phthalates have been known to produce difficulties in the development of male genitalia and cause problems in sperm production.
Considering the amount that children teethe as infants and toddlers, and how often we eat or make contact with our mouths after touching surfaces recently sprayed by air fresheners, it’s no wonder that this possibly cancer-causing toxin is getting so much recognition as an ingredient to avoid. If you’re concerned with your home smelling fresh, invest in organic essential oils, like those provided by Young Living, a company that’s been suggested in Dr. Victoria Scarano’s 7 Healthy Pregnancy Tips blog. To avoid phthalates leaking into your food through plastic containers, store in glass containers, or use a glass water bottle.
2. Antibacterial Handsoaps and Dish Detergents
When something is labelled, “antibacterial,” it is more than likely made with triclosan, an ingredient meant to prevent bacterial contamination. This toxin has been linked to skin irritation, antibiotic resistance, and endocrine resistance, a component of breast cancer.
Considering the constant usage of dish and hand soaps, the prevalence of the side effects of triclosan are being widely recognized by consumers and health awareness organizations. The Honest Company Dish Soap is equally priced to common soaps, giving you an even greater incentive to introduce it to your home.
3. All-Purpose and Window/Glass Cleaner
The sweet smell in your all-purpose and glass cleaners can be attributed to 2-butoxyethanol, a glycol-ether that is known to cause fatigue, pulmonary edema, severe liver and kidney damage, and often times, a sore throat. All purpose cleaners are used often, and kept at an easy-to-reach location, making exposure to this harmful toxin very real. Side-effects can occur in the human body over periods of long-term exposure, without our really recognizing the true culprit. There are guidelines to regulate window cleaners at the workplace, bringing to light the need for tight control over the usage of this product.
As mentioned above, Seventh Generation offers all-purpose cleaners that double as window and glass cleaners. However, you could also mix some white vinegar with filtered water to wipe down glass and counter tops.
4. Dry Cleaner
If you have pets, small children, or your carpet just needs a deep clean, often times you’ll get it dry cleaned. What lurks in the dry cleaning liquid is a notorious toxin called perchloroethylene, or PERC for short, and it’s one of the more aggressive toxins in your cleaning products. This is a neurotoxin and carcinogen that infiltrates your body through inhalation. You can experience behavioral changes, kidney damage, dizziness and impairment of coordination.
The list goes on with the possible side-effects of PERC, including the slew of reproductive disorders and developmental deformities that can occur. Your sperm cell structure can alter, have reduced fertility, or menstrual disorders. All of this, and we haven’t even breached its ability to cause cancer, or more specifically, it’s strong connection to bladder cancer.
Sprinkle baking soda on spills to lift a stain. Vacuum off after about 20 minutes and then assess how bad the stain is. If it’s still visible, or you’d like some more reassurance that it’s gone, try Seventh Generation’s all-purpose cleaner.
5. Oven and Drain Cleaners
Also known as lye, sodium hydroxide is a toxic ingredient often used in oven and drain cleaners. It aids in the breaking down of blockages and buildup without adversely affecting ovens and drains.
While it is useful in the quick dissolution of blockages, there are many side-effects that show through symptoms like lung inflammation, severe pain and vision loss, possible vomiting, and necrosis. In the process of cleaning your oven, this chemical radiates throughout the house, and is inadvertently ingested by you and your family.
In drains, use baking powder and vinegar, cap it and wait til the foaming dies down. To be sure it worked, you may want to snake it. Otherwise, there is a drain cleaner by Biokleen that is safe to use, and environmentally sound. For ovens, you can always use baking soda, as well. Mixing it with water creates a paste that, with a little scrubbing, cleans your oven with no harmful side-effects.