Never mix products. Chemicals in cleaning products can have dangerous reactions with one another. For exam- ple, combining bleach and ammonia creates deadly chloramine fumes.
Use less toxic products. Avoid products marked “Danger” and “Poison,” and re- duce the use of those labeled “Caution.”
• Avoid products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), especially if anyone in the home has asthma. Aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfec- tants, moth repellents and air fresheners are likely to contain VOCs.
The Dirt on Cleaning Choose to Have a Green, Clean, Toxin-free Home
by Erin Switalski
a clean home isn’t always a healthy one. The laundry detergents, tub and tile sprays, air fresh- eners, drain cleaners and antibacterial soaps that promise “fresh and clean” may hide unseen and undisclosed dangers.
D According to
espite what our moth- ers told us,
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), a national women’s environmental organization, there are some 85,000 chemicals contained in products in the consumer marketplace, and only a frac- tion have been tested for their impact on human health. Labeling on clean-
Working Group’s analysis of 20 common cleaning products used in California schools found hundreds of airborne contaminants not listed as ingredients by manufacturers. A test that chose three green-certified classroom cleaners versus three common conventional cleaners cut the total number of air contaminants detected from 66 to 15.
ing products is not regulated, and not every manufacturer voluntarily dis- closes ingredients. To safely power through household dirt and bacteria without using ques- tionable chemicals, try WVE’s green cleaning tips.
Use fewer prod- ucts. An all-pur- pose cleaner can handle many clean- ing jobs around the house. It is not necessary to use a different product for
each room (bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner, etc.). Check out the National Geographic Green Guide list of all-pur- pose cleaners at TheGreenGuide.com/
East Bay Area | www.NAEastBay.com
• Avoid chemicals linked to repro- ductive harm. Products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as butoxyethanol and other glycol ethers include: all-purpose, glass, oven, tub/ tile, carpet and floor cleaners; degreas- ers; stain removers; floor strippers; and metal polishes. The surfactant alkyl phenol ethoxylate (APE) is found pri- marily in: laundry detergents; non-chlo- rine sanitizers; deodorizers; floor care products; and multi-purpose, carpet and toilet bowl cleaners.
• Seek products that have been certi- fied by an independent institution such as Green Seal (GreenSeal.org
) or EcoLogo (EcoLogo.org
Avoid air fresheners. They contain fragrances and other irritants associated with watery eyes, headaches, skin and respiratory irritations, asthma and al- lergic reactions. They may also contain VOCs and the known carcinogens, benzene and formaldehyde.
Reduce the use of disinfectants. Ex- posure to antimicrobial chemicals has been linked to potential health impacts, and their overuse has contributed to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs.”
Scientists agree that soap and water are effective for most routine cleaning jobs, and research has dem- onstrated that safer alternatives, such as vinegar and borax, have antibacte- rial properties. Two simple solutions
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