When consumers buy commercial cleaning products, we expect them to do one thing: clean! We use a wide array of scents, soaps, detergents, bleaching agents, softeners, scourers, polishes, and specialized cleaners for bathrooms, glass, drains, and ovens to keep our homes sparkling and sweet-smelling. But while the chemicals in cleaners foam, bleach, and disinfect to make our dishes, bathtubs and counter tops gleaming and germ-free, many also contribute to indoor air pollution, are poisonous if ingested, and can be harmful if inhaled or touched. In fact, some cleaners are among the most toxic products found in the home. ~ Health Freedoms
Products we use everyday for cleaning may hold more power than we realize – power to contaminate the environment and poison humans and animals. Ordinary household cleaners, batteries, detergents, garden pesticides, paints, stain removers, degreasers, and flea preventatives can be toxic. Such chemicals pollute groundwater, as well as oceans and lakes. If ingested, absorbed through contact with skin, or inhaled, they may cause illness that can lie dormant for years before becoming apparent.
The most common contaminant of the ocean is phosphates, which are found in laundry detergent and cleaning products of some varieties. High levels of phosphates can kill organisms in streams, rivers, and oceans by bringing about “algae blooms.” Slimes of algae of enough density to rob marine life of oxygen have been growing worldwide, especially in bays. Blooms are mostly caused by sewage and runoff water from farms, which contain pollutants called “nutrients.” These nutrients have led to development of dead zones with so little oxygen that only algae and bacteria can endure the environment. Many fishing areas and shellfish beds are such no longer due to nutrients.
The effects of common chemicals upon human health can be detrimental. Chemical levels inside the home can be up to 70 times higher than levels outside. Over a hundred chemicals have been suspected to cause birth defects, cancer, allergies, psychological abnormalities, headaches, depression, skin reactions, joint pain, chest pains, chronic fatigue, asthma, loss of sleep, dizziness, nervous disorders, and respiratory problems. About 70% of reported poisonings are in children ages one to five, and most can be blamed on improper storage of chemicals. Dishwashing detergent poisoning is the most common. Dandruff shampoo, if ingested, causes deterioration of internal organs. Ammonia mixed with bleach can be fatal. Caustic cleaners cause severe burns to skin or internally if swallowed.
In addition to children, elderly are also quite susceptible because of age-related breakdown of biochemical and physiological process. In particular, carbon disulfide can be more harmful to seniors than others.
It is often assumed that products sold in stores are safe, buy many common cleaners are actually considered hazardous waste and should not be thrown into the trash; they should be taken to a hazardous waste collection center. The following is a list of suggestions to help you avoid using dangerous contaminants:
- Use white distilled vinegar, which is a natural disinfectant. It removes mineral deposits and stains really well.
- Use equal amounts of vinegar and water to remove pet odors and most carpet stains. This combination also does well as an oven cleaner.
- Bicarbonate of Soda can be combined with water to loosen dirt and dissolve grease, or it can be made into a paste for scrubbing more resistant stains.
- Olive oil or beeswax mixed with one part lemon juice provides a good polish for wood floors or furniture.
- Don’t throw it down the sink – think! Only naturally occurring substances should be poured down the drain.
- Always read labels, and use non-toxic products when feasible.