Spring Cleaning

 I remember my first job (working as a kennel attendant in an animal hospital) and I handled MANY chemicals unknowingly.  I’d break out in rashes, felt light-headed, nauseous and could never figure out why.  We’re trained to equate clean with smelling clean…strong scents and a sparkle finish.  The cleaning products on the market might clean your house, but are they safe?  Federal law does not require companies to list all the chemical ingredients on their products, nor do they conduct any sort of tests to determine their safety.

  As mentioned in a previous post, just because we’re not ingesting these products, does not mean they don’t pose a health risk.  We’ve all seen the commercials for Dawn dish soap…they’re “cleaning” the animals from the oil spill.  What you may not know, and it’s pretty ironic, Dawn itself is made from oil!  You may not be intentionally ingesting it, but the residue from the soap is left on your plates and utensils…and those you put in your mouth.  Same thing goes for laundry soap, those clothes are in contact with your skin all day.  A long time ago I used to wash my clothes in Tide and other widely recognized detergents, but my skin paid the price.  Nearly two-thirds of laundry detergents sold in America today are contaminated with a cancer causing chemical called 1,4-dioxane.  Please read the labels on your cleaning products…here is a list of ingredients to avoid (http://www.greenerchoices.org/products.cfm?product=greencleaning):

  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) – found in many cleaning products, especially detergents, stain removers, citrus cleaners and disinfectants.  FYI…Europe has banned the use of this, yet it is found in so many of the products in America.  NPEs have been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells,  cause low sperm count, and can cause poor reproductive health.  Studies have shown that this toxic ingredient also feminizes male fish when present in sufficiently high concentrations in the water.  Of course we’re not ingesting it, but it is being absorbed into our skin.  Read more: http://www.brighthub.com/environment/green-living/articles/17618.aspx#ixzz1HIfD4Lvd
  • Antibacterials – especially triclosan!!  Triclosan is found in hundreds of antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, and deodorants.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency has registered it as a pesticide…hmmm, I certainly would NOT want to be washing my hands with that!  When triclosan breaks down, it can turn into dioxins, which are known carcinogens.  It can cause skin irritation, and while the studies/tests were done on animals, low doses acted as an endocrine disruptor.  There is a push to have this chemical banned and the FDA is looking over the evidence with their findings to be released this spring….hopefully!
  • Ammonia – can burn the skin on contact, poisonous if swallowed, and extremely irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled.  Ammonia is found in floor, bathroom, tile, and glass cleaners.
  • Butyl cellosolve (aka, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl) – a lung tissue irritant and poisonous when swallowed.  Found in glass cleaners and all-purpose cleaners.
  • Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) – irritating to eyes and lungs.  Sold by itself and found in numerous household cleaners.
  • d-limonene – found in air fresheners and can irritate the skin.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) & triethanolamine (TEA) – carcinogenic ingredients found in sudsing products, including detergents and cleaners.
  • Disinfectants – This is a catchall term for a variety of active ingredients, which include: chlorine bleach, alcohol, quartering compounds, pine oil, and ethyl alcohol.  The EPA has registered them as pesticides….not only do they have serious health risks, but can also cause problems in waterways by killing helpful bacteria.  Found in many household cleaners; many products that are labeled as “antibacterial” are also disinfectants.
  • Fragrance – found in cleaners and air fresheners.
  • Hydrochloric Acid – can severely burn the skin, irritate eyes, and respiratory tract.  Found in toilet bowl cleaners.
  • Naptha – can cause headaches, nausea, and central nervous system symptoms with over exposure.  Found in furniture and floor polish and glass cleaners.
  • Petroleum-based ingredients – many of the ingredients above are derived from petroleum.  Formaldehyde, also derived from petroleum, can be found at trace levels in cleaning products.
  • Phosphates – found in automatic dishwasher detergents and some laundry detergents.
  • Sodium Hydroxide (lye) – corrosive and extremely irritating to eyes, nose, and throat and can burn those tissues on contact.  Found in drain, metal, and oven cleaners.
  • Sulfuric acid – can severely damage eyes, lungs, and skin.  Found in drain cleaners.

When I look at this list of toxic ingredients, the symptoms I had all make sense.  The cleaning products I was using did a number on my body.

So what do you use?!  It took me forever to find an ALL natural laundry detergent…I’m currently using Ecos Free and Clear…it only has two ingredients…100% natural anionic coconut kernel oil based surfactant, purified water.  As far as the other cleaning supplies it’s best to make your own.  Super easy, inexpensive, and safe!  Your every day household items can be combined into the best cleaning products.

  • Baking soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours
  • Lemon – one of the strongest food acids; effective against most household bacteria
  • White vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors,  and some stains
  • Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs (http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm)

Here are some quick recipes:

Drain cleaner – 1/2 cup baking soda (pour down drain), then add 1/2 cup white vinegar.  Let it sit for 30 minutes and then pour boiling water to flush the residue.  Repeat if necessary.  An excellent substitute for Drano and Liquid-Plumr.

All-purpose cleaner – equal parts vinegar and water.   Add 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 15 drops of essential oils, such as tea tree, lavender, clove, or grapefruit (they have antiseptic properties and work as natural fungicides).  Use in a spray bottle.

Glass cleaner – 1 quart water, 2 Tbsp vinegar, 10-15 drops of essential oils (optional).  Use in a spray bottle.

Those are just a few examples…you can find numerous replacements for chemical products online!

Resources:

http://www.theredwhiteandgreen.com/2010/05/05/oh-the-irony-dawn-saves-wildlife-with-oil-based-dish-soap/

http://www.ecos.com/press/Healthy%20Living%20articles%20/14-3_06-08_EFP.pdf

http://www.ewg.org/healthy-home-tips/checklist

http://www.enviroblog.org/2010/03/labels-without-ingredients-seen-any-lately.html  (ingredients to stay away from)

http://www.health-report.co.uk/toxic_household_chemicals.htm

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_279.cfm

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