“Caution,” “Danger,” “Poison,” “Keep Out of Reach of Children,” “Toxic” — We’ve all read these words on traditional cleaning product labels that we purchase off the store shelf, and while exposure to harsh chemicals can potentially irritate our skin and burn our eyes, the long-term exposure and subsequent health consequences can be significant.
Furthermore, when you purchase products labeled “all natural” or “biodegradable,” these too may not always be “safe.”
Leaving the harmful chemicals behind for safer, non-toxic choices is wise in the best of circumstances, but especially if you or a family member has a health condition such as asthma or allergies, or if you have small children or pets, where contaminants can hang low in the air, or on the carpet or floor where babies and pets play.
Aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners and a host of other common household products are known to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. When these types of products are used, the air quality inside our homes can be up to 1,000 times more polluted than the air outside our homes.
It’s true, while the extent and nature of health effects depend on many factors, why risk exposure to harmful chemicals that can cause such potential ailments as “eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous systems,” if exposed?
HOW TO AVOID HARMFUL CHEMICALS
Did you know that per the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, household cleaners are the only products for which manufacturers are NOT required to list all the ingredients? Certain ingredients (such as fragrances) could be considered “trade” secrets and government regulations are designed to protect proprietary information! So without full disclosure, you may be unknowingly exposing yourself and your family to harmful chemicals.
So what can you do to avoid exposure?
Read all labels on your cleaning supplies carefully.
If you read words stronger than “caution” such as “warning,” “toxic,” “danger,” “keep out of reach of children,” etc., — it’s probably best to avoid this product.
THE SEARCH FOR “GREEN” PRODUCTS
When a product is legitimately labeled “safe” and “green” it will be certified by one of the nationally recognized independent standards and certifiers. Look for the following names and logos:
DIY GREEN CLEANING
Put together your own green cleaning kit. It’s easy, affordable and fun!
Here’s a list of ingredients you probably already have in your cupboards:
White Vinegar – an antifungal that also kills germs and bacteria
Baking Soda – eliminates odors and works as a gentle scouring powder
Plain Liquid Soap – uses soap without fragrances or antibacterials such as Dr. Bonner’s pure castile soap. If you want to add fragrance, add in a pure essential oil
Hydrogen Peroxide – In 3% concentration, it’s a great nontoxic bleach and stain remover as well as disinfectant
Rubbing Alcohol – great for de-greasing, stainless steel cleaning, and removing permanent marker stains
Fresh Club Soda – a stain remover and natural polisher
Lemon Juice – a nontoxic bleach, grease-cutter and stain remover. When mixed with soap and baking soda it’s great for an all-purpose cleaner.
Coconut Oil – use as a furniture polish
Pure, Organic Essential Oils – a great way to add wonderful, natural and organic scents to your homemade cleaning essentials… try lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, etc. Many essential oils such as tea tree have antibacterial, anti-fungal and insect-repelling properties.
WHAT TO DO WITH TOXIC CLEANERS
The City of Ventura holds Household Hazardous Waste Collection events on the third Saturday of every month except in December where you can dispose of up to 15 gallons of liquid chemicals. Reservations are required for drop-off call (805) 652-4525 and visit, cityofventura.net/hhw
REMEMBER TO CLEAN IT GREEN!
Also visit this informative site from the City of San Francisco, CLICK HERE.
–Maryann Ridni Spencer with Tobie Mitchell for SustainableVentura.TV