January 4, 2010

Getting Green Clean


We spend most of our time indoors and most of that time indoors is spent at our home. If you are like me, your home is your haven, a safe place to duck away from the rigors of the world outside. And if you are like me, you like your home to be clean, maybe not white-glove inspection clean, but clean enough to the naked eye. I have come rethink what clean means this past year.

Let me start at the beginning......

Our government only requires companies to list chemicals of “known concern” on their labels. Here’s the problem with that- most chemicals found in conventional cleaning products have not been tested to determine what their dangers may be. And the few that have been tested were tested alone, not in combination with other chemicals. In other words, the testing that has been done on some of the known chemicals in say, your favorite kitchen cleaner, have been tested individually and not in tandem as they are found in that kitchen cleaner. So we have no idea what those chemicals, known and unknown, are doing to us.

Here's the thing about having chemicals hanging out in our bodies- scientists are not certain what affects these chemicals have on our short and long-term health and the reason for that is because very few have been tested on how they affect humans. Check this out:

“Under the terms of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers the act, can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency can show the products poses a health risk- which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year. ” Green Goes With Everything, page 31

An agency watchdog, the Environmental Working Group, “the EPA approved most applications in three weeks, even though more than half has provided no information on toxicity at all.” Green Goes With Everything, page 32

I don't know about you, but I am not interested in gambling my health and the health of my husband because tests are still pending or have not been conducted on the affects that chemicals may or may not have on our bodies. And because I am not a gambler, we do not use toxic cleaning products. We use non-toxic cleaning products throughout our house.

I want you to look for the following ingredients in your household and carpet cleaners, disinfectants, stain removers, soaps and detergents, and deodorizers- I have included links whenever possible so you can read about the danger that lurks behind each chemical:

Butyl Cellosolve
Ethylene glycol butyl ether
Hydrochloric Acid
Petroleum Distillates
Propylene Glycol
Sodium Hydroxide
Sodium Hypochlorite
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sulfuric Acid

Researchers have indicated that these chemicals are dangerous in significant doses and they are even more dangerous when combined with each other. The book gives this example of cleaning products gone bad to way worse:
When you spray your chlorine-based shower cleaner to clean the tiles and then clean your shower doors with ammonia-based glass cleaner, you just created a “toxic, lung-damaging cloud” because chlorine and ammonia do that when combined. Turn on the hot water in the stall to rinse the cleaners away, and now you made it worse and are breathing that cloud in. And if you read the manufacturer’s label on either of those products, they would say you shouldn’t have done that.

Did you know that? Glad you do now?

Now there is another problem we need to address with our cleaning products and that is the smell of our cleaning products. Who doesn’t mind the smell of lemons, lavender vanilla, or even pine? Well, we all should mind. A lot. As it turns out, companies use something called phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals. If you have something in your home that says “fragranced” on it, then you can be sure there are phthalates in it.

So what’s the big deal about phthalates? The EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services has categorized some phthalate as a “possible carcinogens”- which means they cause cancer in animals and can possibly cause cancer in humans. Seems like the European Union is on to phthalates because they are being phased out of products in the EU. If an entire countries are phasing something out, shouldn’t we take notice and take action, too? Fragrance free really is best.

This is a lot of information, I know, but it’s so important that we educate ourselves because no one is going to do it for us, not even our government. After all, we are our best advocates for healthier living.

Please consider ridding your home of products that contain toxic chemicals- if there is a safer way to “get clean” don’t you think it’s worth making the switch? Be sure to call your local sanitation department to determine the safest way to dispose of your cleaners.

So what are your options for “greener” cleaning products? Well, fortunately, there are several and most are available at your local Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and/or online - here are a few to check out:

You want to look for products that say "non-toxic," "frangrance free," and "all natural." Feeling up to making homemade cleaning solutions? Check this site out.

A clean home, in short, should smell like nothing. I have had to retrain my thinking and my senses because for so long I needed the smell of lemons to make me believe my home is clean.


Anonymous said...

I grew up on Shaklee. Cleaners to vitamins to beauty products...everything. My parents were distributors. Even now, my skin is much healthier than most other people my age, I believe in large part to the mild and non-toxic cleansers that we used growing up. I have recently started using it again and LOVE IT. There is nothing that quite compares, in my mind. K

Joy Lindstrom said...

A few months ago I found this site as I was hunting for ways to stretch my household budget.
I have to confess.... the major reason for my switch to greener living has been because of our slim budget.
Praise Him. He always has our best interests in mind as He leads our journey.... the more I save... the more products I make myself... hand soap, laundry detergent, cleaning products... the healthier my family becomes!
He is faithful to provide ALL we need... as I pray for wisdom, He continually opens doors to healthier living. It was always my misconception that it is incredibly expensive to live organicly.... He is showing us otherwise!
Thanks for this info Justine! I too believe that He's pleased by our desire to live simply.