Today I want to talk about the effects that cleaning products can have on our bodies and our environment.
Because cleaning products are not required to list their ingredients, and phrases such as fragrance-free, non-toxic and biodegradable are not regulated, once again we are on our own to decipher which supplies are safe. The bad news: The average American household contains three to 10 gallons of hazardous materials, and uses more than 60 hazardous products. These chemicals (found in common household products, such as glass cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, all purpose cleaners, etc.) have been shown to cause respiratory problems, eye irritations, endocrine system disruption and cancer (Environmental Media Services, April, 2001).
In a study done by BBC News, 14,000 children were studied from birth to 3½ years. The study found a huge link between prenatal exposure to common household cleaning product use and wheezing leading to asthma.
The 10 most common used supplies in this study were: bleach, carpet cleaners,dry cleaning fluids, aerosols, turpentine, air fresheners, paint and paint strippers, pesticides/insecticides and window cleaner. There is also a chemical called nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), which is found in many cleaning supplies, that has been shown to cause male fish to be transformed into female fish in our waterways.
This is very scary, and some experts are looking at this turning into a larger problem, as about 250,000 fewer boys have been born in the last 30 years in the United States and Japan. Scientists are linking the phenomenon to a body accumulation of these types of gender-bending toxins. This particular toxin works by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. NPEs affect gene expression by turning on or off certain genes, and interfere with the way your glandular system works. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on a ban of these NPEs, but for now, read on to find out what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
The good news: Chances are you already have items in your house that are not only eco-friendly and safe for your body systems, but are cheaper than toxic cleaners as well! Different mixtures of vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and salt have been used for generations as very effective cleaners. Try just a half cup of vinegar with a little lemon juice and a couple capfuls of hydrogen peroxide in a quart of water for a great all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Take out the lemon juice and add a few drops of liquid dish soap for dirty windows. (Make sure you are not using harmful antibacterial soaps-we’ll address that problem at a later date.) Dissolve clogs and refresh smelly garbage disposals with baking soda and vinegar.
Using these common household items will make a big change in the level of toxicity in your house, and at the same time, will make your "ecological foot print" much smaller.
If you find that these items aren’t quite cutting it for your style of cleanliness, check out a local health food store for tougher, yet still safe, cleaning solutions, from metal cleaners to laundry detergent. Also, by now you know how detrimental to your health a microwave can be (not only to your body due to EMI, but to your food due to the dismantling of all the nutrients). But if you still own one here’s one use for it: throw your sponges/scrubbers in for about three minutes every few days to kill off all the bacteria and other microbes.
Remember, making a health difference in your life is a step by step process. Make small changes gradually and before you know it, you’ll look back and realize that you are attaining your health goals.
For more information regarding what is considered toxic and what is not, please visit ewg.org.