It’s easy to stock your cleaning cupboard with non-toxic cleaning supplies, and you don’t have to sacrifice the sparkle. Ever wonder what all those scary symbols on your cleaning products mean? They mean they are dangerous to your health. Most conventional cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that put humans and the environment at risk. Chemical ingredients can range from mildly irritating to poisonous and can cause respiratory tract irritation, skin inflammation, eye irritation, nausea, headaches, dizziness and even vomiting. Some are known or suspected carcinogens.
Spraying and wiping surfaces with dangerous toxins just doesn’t make sense: you are polluting your home while trying to clean it. There are safe alternatives to the caustic brews that have become so mainstream, and we don’t have to trade a clean house for a safe house. Nontoxic products are now widely available—and are as effective as they are safe. Manufacturers try to scare us into buying anti-bacterial products, but the truth is that we don’t need them and we’re much healthier using non-toxic alternatives.
Here’s some scary news: when we purchase a conventional cleaner it’s impossible to know all the dangerous solvents and disinfectants we’re bringing into our homes because manufacturers are not required to list ingredients. Manufacturers of Earth-friendly cleaners, however, have nothing to hide and for the most part willingly disclose their safer and natural ingredients to the consumer.
Take Action / Next Steps
Look for earth-friendly cleaning products at local natural food stores. There are more and more to choose from every year. Some popular brands include:
You can easily make your own household cleaners with commonly available and familiar ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, castile soap, borax and others. Look for titles on the subject of natural cleaning at your local library, or follow recipes found online.
Avoid hazardous products. The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act requires prominent label warnings on hazardous household chemical products to alert the consumer to potential hazards. POISON: highly toxic; ingestion or inhalation can result in death in severe cases. DANGER: extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic. WARNING or CAUTION: moderately or slightly toxic.
Did you know that you can make your own surface cleaner for
Distilled white vinegar, available for around $0.04/fl.oz, dissolves dirt, grease, soap scum and
hard water deposits. Mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio—or use it straight for added strength—and clean every
surface in the house!
Did you know that indoor air quality is up to five times
worse than outdoors?
The Environmental Protection Agency ranks poor indoor air quality among the top five
environmental risks to public health. Household products that emit gasses called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pollute
indoor air. VOCs are found in many household cleaners. The exposure level can be quite high, and elevated concentrations can
persist in the air long after cleaning day.
Did you know that VOCs can escape from stored, closed containers?
Once a container’s seal
has been broken, vapors can escape into the home.
Did you know that young children are particularly at risk from exposure to toxic cleaners?
Children, due to their small bodies and developing organs, can be harmed by the effects of toxins quickly and in some cases
irreversibly, says Jennifer Bogo of E Magazine.
Did you know that the American Association of Poison Control Centers
claims there are 2 million cases of poison exposure each year?
Ninety percent of poison exposures to
children occur in the home, primarily from the ingestion of household products, according to the Children's Hospital of
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Labor says
that most chemicals used in commerce have not been thoroughly tested for their effects on human
Did you know that chemical-laden cleaning products are a
source of water pollution?
Cleaners that get flushed and rinsed down the drain end up in wastewater and the
environment. Treatment facilities are able to remove many pollutants from wastewater, but a recent study found that a wide
range of human-caused waste compounds remain and are discharged into bodies of water across North America, according to the
U.S. Geological Survey. Water quality and ecosystems suffer as a result. For example, high levels of phosphates, used in
detergents to soften water, can cause excessive algae growth, depriving fish of oxygen. Chlorine impacts the environment even
at low levels, and is especially harmful to organisms living in water.
7. US Geological Survey. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. [6 November 2006] “From Pharmaceuticals in Groundwater to Mercury in High U.S. Mountains.” Available from: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1578 [30 November 2007].