We all want to believe our homes are safe, supported places when it comes to creating a healthy environment for our families. Unfortunately some of America’s most trusted brands and their products bring toxicity right into our homes through the front door.
Toxicity is tricky to pinpoint in some cases and much more obvious in others. It’s defined as the degree to which a substance (a toxin or poison) can harm humans or animals. Toxicity is confusing to acknowledge when a chemical smell isn’t present, it’s experienced in relatively small amounts or when ingredients on labels are unfamiliar to us (formaldehyde has over 100 names). Consumers also struggle to assess how products marketed as safe and effective could possibly cause harm.
In other cases, where a strong chemical smell is present, it should be clear that the cleaning product being handled is toxic. Unfortunately, these scents associate with clean because people have been cleaning this way for years or have accepted the idea that this is the norm.
But this should not be the norm. Cancer, pregnancy complications, hormone disruption, asthma and other illnesses have all been linked to the toxic chemicals found in commercially produced household products. It’s also important to note that federal regulation does not require chemicals to be tested or proven safe before manufacturers include them in consumer products. As a result, there is an ever-growing list of products and chemicals found harmful to humans after they have been released to the public.
THE SHIFT TO GREEN
Moms in particular, as the lead purchaser of products for the home, are asking tough questions of the large companies that make the products generations before have undoubtedly trusted. They’re making connections between harmful ingredients and disease and acute to chronic health issues. They’re swapping out more mainstream cleaning products for non-toxic (or green) products.
This shift to green is all good news, but we still have clean-up work to do in American homes. An unprecedented 20-year study by The American Thoracic Society was just released in February 2018. The study found that the weekly use of traditional home cleaning products is as damaging to lung health as smoking 20 packs of cigarettes a day. It also says that harmful cleaning products in the form of liquids are just as dangerous as sprays. The study data is important because it shows the result of toxic build up over an extended time period. Read more on the study.
Cleaning with toxic cleaning products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including asthma and respiratory problems, cancer, neurological damage/ autism, ADHD, hormone disruption and infertility. The effects range from acute to chronic and you’ll want to assess your products to ensure they’re safe for immediate and long-term use.
One critical factor to look at when evaluating cleaning products is their volatile organic compounds (VOCs) level. VOCs, are gases that are emitted into the air from products or processes. Take for example the germ-fighter disinfectant Lysol that so many Americans grew up with. Moms sprayed it like crazy in an attempt to keep kids germ-free and healthy. What was not evident to consumers in the past is that Lysol’s VOC level of 1,200ppm is well over the 500ppm that is considered toxic. Use of products with high VOCs have been shown to lower IQ in children developmentally. Read more on VOCs Read more on VOC’s here.
Products with high VOCs have been heavily advertised as must-haves in the home. Many households have used them for decades, so it’s understandable that you may be thinking, “well, we’ve used this for years and we’re fine.” But it’s important to remember that toxic load accumulates over a lifetime. The time is now to seek better, safer and healthier alternatives.
BETTER, SAFER ALTERNATIVES
We left Lysol for a disinfectant that is EPA approved for hospitals and schools: Sol-U-Guard. It’s chemical free, but strong enough to kill Staph, Flu, Roto, E.coli and Influenza A (and other germs too). It doesn’t compromise the immune system like other disinfectants do. Many preschools, schools and daycares have converted to this safe alternative and have reported having less skin issues, like eczema, and less asthma and allergy responses.
We swapped out Mr. Clean and Pine Sol for Clean & Gleam for our hardwood floors. It’s actually a toxin-free floor cleaning system complete with a cleaner and polish that offers three types of re-usable attachments to match the dusting, cleaning and polishing tasks at hand. The cleaner and polish contain biodegradable ingredients and essential oils. In comes in a highly concentrated format and you add the water, unlike other floor cleaning products that contain up to 95% water. And when you think of who is at floor level the most in your home – babies, toddlers and pets – detoxing your floors is a huge step!
Anyone find themselves spraying down the shower and running for cover? Bathrooms are one of the least ventilated rooms of the home. To clean without the acute response and long-term exposure to harsh cleaning products, we tossed Scrubbing Bubbles for Tub and Tile, which cleans through naturally derived citric acid and biodegradable ingredients. Note that many toxic mainstream cleaners in this category contain sodium hydroxide, a manufactured chemical with an alkaline base. Even very low levels can produce irritation of the skin and eyes. Exposure to the solid or concentrated liquid can cause severe chemical burns in the eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract.
In the kitchen, we deserted Dawn Dishwashing Detergent for Diamond Brite pods. Dawn contains methylisothiazolinone, which is considered toxic. When we fill up a glass of water for our little ones, we certainly don’t want it laced with chemicals. In this category, look for something like Diamond Brite that cleans with naturally-derived enzymes and a nonionic surfactant. We’re also liking Pura Naturals Stink Free cleaning sponges made from renewable resources and designed to repel water but grab grease, oils, fats, and chemicals.
HEALTHY INDOOR AIR
Naturally-derived, safe, nontoxic, and biodegradable ingredients that don’t negatively impact the environment or your family’s health are out there. And by making green choices, we can clean our homes and protect our health. To find out how you can safeguard your home environment, check out the links in this post on the lung study, vocs and find more information on indoor air and cleaning products here.
Inhale. Exhale. Safely.