When we were kids, one of our friend’s mom was a fastidious house keeper. She was always cleaning and polishing everything in site — their house was sparkling clean — and smelled of lemon pledge, bleach, windex, and 409, among other noxious fumes.
I remember early on that 409 gave me a terrible headache. I was sure it wasn’t good for you but I was too young to really understand why. Luckily for us, my mom didn’t use many of those household cleaners. She also had some trepidations about us playing at our friend’s house, because of all the fumes.
Later on, our friend’s mom died of cancer, and it made my family wonder, could it have been toxins from all of those household cleaners? While we’ll never know for sure, one thing is sure…we breath in the fumes from those products, which can get into our bloodstream, or they may be absorbed through our skin if we don’t wear gloves. Thousands of chemicals found in cleaning products in the US have never been tested for their longterm toxic effects, let alone what happens when several are combined within our bodies. (Ironically, most of them are banned in Europe, for being too toxic.) So are your cleaning products toxic? How can you find out, and what can you use instead?
What You Should Know About Your Cleaning Products
According to scientist David Suzuki, here are some of the worst offenders lurking in your cleaning products:
- 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE, also known as butyl cellosolve): found in glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers — associated with blood disorders and reproductive problems.
- Coal tar dyes: found in most cleaning products — associated with cancers and nervous system disorders.
- MEA (monoethanalomine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine): found in liquid laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, car wash products, degreasers, dishes soap, oven cleaners, and glass and surface cleaners — associated with asthma and cancer.
- Fragrance: over 3,000 fragrance chemicals are used in most types of cleaning products — associated with allergies, migraines, and asthma, they can also build up in the environment where they are toxic to aquatic organisms.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs): found in liquid laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers, and car wash products — a synthetic hormone associated with breast cancer as well as causing adverse reproductive effects in fish and other aquatic organisms.
Find out what to look for in your household cleaning products on David Suzuki’s site EXECUTIVE SUMMARY — Searching for a List of Ingredients in Home Cleaning Products
What Are Non-Toxic Alternatives to Your Cleaning Products?
Here are 9 DIY non-toxic cleaning products that you can make yourself, courtesy of MindBodyGreen.com.
One of my favorites is using white vinegar and a newspaper to clean windows and mirrors. Make a solution of 1:1 white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray your window or mirror with the vinegar-water solution, then wipe clean with newspaper for sparkling, streak-free windows and mirrors.
What are your favorite non-toxic, DIY cleaning products?