There’s something to be said about walking into a clean home, but we can do without inhaling an onslaught of harsh chemical odours and fumes. What about using natural or “green” cleaning products? You can lessen your exposure to harmful ingredients that may have negative effects on your health, and the planet.
Since the mid 20th century, about 85,000 new chemicals have been introduced to the market through various products. I recall the strong scent of vinegar on cleaning day from childhood. Perhaps it’s time to get back to sourcing more natural ingredients in our cleaning routines, and feeling healthier and enjoying cleaner household air at the same time.
Chemical-laden cleaning products can cause myriad short term or immediate health problems. You might feel satisfied at how the house smells after scouring and scrubbing, but those strong fumes can lead to headaches; dizziness; skin, respiratory and eye irritation; and asthma attacks. Some cleaners also contain known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, reproductive system toxins and hormone disruptors. “These chemical cleaning solutions are often composed of many ingredients that aren’t well understood in terms of how they work together,” says Csaba Szabo, President at Ecosparkle in Newmarket. “The safety of them is questionable. People are concerned about spraying them on eating surfaces and throughout the home, and being exposed to them constantly.”
The smaller members of the home are even more vulnerable. “Small children have a smaller body and therefore less capacity to clear out any toxic compounds which they might be exposed to,” says Szabo. “It’s also a concern for pets, when you have an animal that’s close to the ground, they’re more vulnerable to exposure with these cleaning compounds.”
Topping the toxicity list are drain, oven and toilet-bowl cleaners; chlorinated disinfectants; mildew removers and wood and metal polishes. Even benign products, such as dish detergent, can contain toxic chemicals.
Whether you choose to make your own vinegar solution to remove mold and mildew or purchase natural, chemical-free products, you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve eliminated chemicals from your home along with the mold, mildew and spaghetti stains. Plus, you won’t have to worry any more about accidentally spilling bleach on your beige bathroom towels.
“It’s certainly not the case that green products can’t be as effective [as chemical-based products],” says Szabo. “You just have to make sure you’re buying from a trusted brand that has done the research and vetted their products.’
By Becky Dumais
What to Watch For
Often you can more accurately assess a product’s safety by reading through its ingredients list. Watch out for these toxins as you shop:
Phthalates (in fragranced household products such as air fresheners and dish soap). Known endocrine (hormone) disruptors may not be listed, but if the label says “fragrance”, chances are phthalates are present.
Perc (perchloroethylene) – a neurotoxin found in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.
Triclosan (antibacterial foaming agent used dishwashing detergents, hand soaps and even toothpaste). In addition to contributing to antibiotic resistant microbes, it’s also suspected of being a hormone disruptor and possible carcinogen.
2-Butoxyethanol can cause sore throats, pulmonary edema, and liver and kidney damage.
Ammonia (polishing agent for bathroom fixtures and sinks, also glass cleaner). It can cause chronic bronchitis and asthma. Avoid the combination of ammonia and chlorine bleach – together these create highly toxic chloramine gas that can injure lung tissue.
Chlorine (in scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners and household tap water). These compounds can severely irritate the lungs or burn skin and eyes and may be a thyroid disruptor.
Sodium hydroxide (in oven cleaners and drain openers) is extremely corrosive, causing severe burns if it touches the skin or eyes. Inhaling sodium hydroxide can cause a sore throat that lasts for many days.
Nature’s Emporium, Newmarket
Good Health Mart, Aurora
Sangster’s Health Centre, Aurora