Chemicals in Your Cleaning Products
Fifty years ago, consumers used natural items like vinegar, baking soda, and pure soap to clean their homes. But after World War II, many of the chemicals that had been developed for the military were marketed to the general public in the form of plastic wrap, pesticides, and chemical cleaning agents.
Today, the average home contains about ten gallons of harmful chemicals in the form of cleaning agents. Children under the age of six are more likely to be poisoned by liquid dish soap than anything else in the home. In fact, roughly 20 percent of all childhood poisonings occur as a result of exposure to chemical cleaning agents.
Get the chemicals out of your home and clean with natural ingredients that are safer for you, your baby, and the planet.
Don't toss your old chemical cleaning agents in the trash. These chemicals certainly don't belong in the home, but they also too toxic for the drain or the landfill. Check with your local community disposal organization to find out when and where you can dispose of these products properly.
Chemicals to Avoid
There are so many chemicals used in cleaning products that it is virtually impossible to list them all in one spot. But as a new or expecting parent, you should be on the lookout for three particular types of chemicals in your cleaning products: glycol ether, APEs, and phthalates.
Glycol ethers such as 2-butoxyethanol, are solvents commonly found in glass cleaners. Research shows that pregnant women who were exposed to glycol ethers in their work environments were significantly more likely to have children with birth defects such as neural tube defects and cleft lip. In laboratory studies, glycol ethers have also been associated with low birth weight in exposed mice.
Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are a type of surfactant found in laundry detergents, citrus cleaners, disinfecting cleaners, and stain removers. According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, a nonprofit agency that evaluates chemicals for toxicity, more than 450 million pounds of APEs are produced each year, and half of these wind up down the drain.
The most common APE, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), is an endocrine disruptor that is clearly linked to impact on aquatic ecosystems. These chemicals can cause harm to fish, frogs, turtles, and other aquatic life. Studies have shown that even low-level exposure can damage the reproductive health and survival of a number of fish species. The United States Geological Survey found NPEs in 70 percent of North American streams.
A truly green cleaning product will be nontoxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources. Unfortunately, manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients in their products, and there is not yet an industry standard to define terms such as natural, green, or eco-friendly for cleaning products. Look for products that offer complete ingredient list on their labels.
Remember those nasty phthalates that are found in many of your personal care products? You will get a double dose of them if you use chemical cleaning products. Many conventional cleaning products use phthalates to stabilize fragrance. They can be found in glass cleaners, deodorizers, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners. Phthalates have been linked to adverse health effects and reproductive disorders such as reduced sperm count, allergies, and asthma.