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Friday, February 26, 2010

Contrary to Popular Belief...

I don’t think I have been in a home where I haven’t seen household cleaners such as Lysol, Clorox, Pledge and Windex. Chemical cleaning supplies are an $18 billion industry (Bach, 80). Wish I had a piece out of that pie (not really and you will soon know why). The average US household shells out roughly $600 a year on 40 lbs of chemical cleaning supplies (Bach, 80).

I will take you on a short journey through the life of me during my first semester of college. I was taking a biology course which was required for my intended major in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Those of you who know me well are probably thinking, WHAT?!? Yes, there was a time in my life when I wanted to deliver babies (I still do) and I thought being an OBGYN was the only way to do it. Any who, my Biology instructor began to teach the class about endangered species. I was intrigued. I began doing a lot of research of my own and eventually I was learning about tap water, chemicals and this led me into “The Green Life”.

Most Americans go to their local grocery store and buy brand name cleaners. The popular cleaners I am sure you have seen thousands of advertisements for, whether on television, magazines, etc. Society doesn’t have a clue what is in these bottles that magically make any mess disappear. They think because it is on the shelf, they must be okay to use. Right? WRONG! Household cleaners are not as safe as we think.



The first reason why household cleaners are not as safe as we think is that companies are not required to disclose ingredients. Have you ever looked at the back of a bottle of cleaner that you use? They do not disclose the ingredients. Why would they? They don’t want you to know what you are buying. If you did, they wouldn’t be making billions off of you. Here are some pictures of labels from the back of commonly used cleaners. You don’t see any ingredients listed any where.







Ben Dunham, an associate legislative counsel at Earthjustice states, “The federal system to regulate toxic chemicals is just in shambles (Bielo).” People assume that because these products are on the shelf that they are safe, but they are not.

The second reason why household cleaners are not as safe as we think is that they are made with harmful chemicals. It’s no wonder why they don’t want you to know the ingredients. If you knew you were buying a bottle full of health problems, would you buy it? I think it is safe to say that everyone would say no. They are full of dangerous chemicals that we can’t even pronounce.


• denatured ethanol
• alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
• dimethyl benzyl ammonia chloride
• alkylphenol ethoxylates
• ethylene glycol ethers
• ethanolamines
• chloramines
• ethylene dibromide
• cyclophosphamide

Even if you did know ingredients, you wouldn’t know if they are harmful. Where do you go to look up chemicals and their harmful effects? "One of the problems that none of this is addressing is that there are more than 100,000 chemicals in commerce and maybe 900 evaluations of chemicals for cancer-risk," says chemist Monona Rossol, industrial hygienist for Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, a nonprofit that advises on chemical safety for theaters and artists. "For the majority of chemicals, there just isn't any data (Bielo)." What’s even more disturbing is “if you’re cleaning with disinfectant, you’re spraying pesticides all over your home (Ryan & Lowry, 47).” Many cleaners release VOC’s (volatile organic compounds
), which can cause many health effects.

The third reason why household cleaners are not as safe as we think is that they can cause many health problems. Many VOC’s are carcinogens
and contribute to other serious health problems. VOC’s are released into the air of your home and remain there for you to breathe in. They settle on surfaces in your home for you to touch. “Studies show links between chemicals in common household cleaners and respiratory irritation, asthma, and allergies, red blood cell damage, reproductive system damage, and birth defects. Some solvents in cleaning products are also toxic to the nervous system (Household).” Many cleaners have ingredients called endocrine or hormone disrupters. Also, “Studies have shown that women who work inside the home have significantly higher cancer rates than those who don’t and repeated exposure to cleaning products is a contributing factor (Matheson, 47).” Did you know that “About ten percent of toxic exposures reported to the U.S. Poison Control Centers are related to cleaning products directly touching the skin or being ingested (Matheson, 32)?”

Everyone should request toxic chemical policy reform by joining the Million Baby Crawl
. You can also buy safe cleaning products from many companies such as Seventh Generation
, Method
, and Mrs. Meyers
. They are available almost everywhere and they disclose ALL of their ingredients. Check your local grocery store. You can also find amazing recipes online
to make your own cleaners here and type “household cleaner recipes” into the search box. Check out this website
and click “household cleaners” to ensure you are not buying harmful chemicals.

If you have any questions or comments, please ask! I have many resources and books on this. Trying to incorporate everything is extremely hard. Thanks and until next time… peace and love!

"Popular to contrary belief, what you don't know can hurt you (Ryan and Lowry, 10)."

Bach, David. Go Green, Live Rich. New York: Broadway Books, 2008.
Biello , David . "Earthjustice Wants Companies to List Chemicals in Household Cleaners". Scientific American. 02/25/2010 .
Matheson, Christie. Green Chic Saving The Earth in Style. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2008.
Ryan, Eric and , Lowry, Adam. Squeaky Green . San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.
"Household Cleaner Product Giant SC Johnson Will Disclose Chemical Ingredients". Earthjustice. 02/25/2010 .

2 comments:

Dionna @Code Name: Mama said...

We mainly use vinegar/water to clean, but there are a few products I have stubbornly clung to in the mistaken belief that they do a better job. I know better. Thank you for voicing the reasons that I have started to switch to more natural products, and for motivating me to complete my own transition.
Sharing this info!

Anonymous said...

Another person who has bought into the myth of 'going green'. All of the cleaners I have show the Active Ingredients on the front of the bottle. Active meaning the ones that could 'actively' cause a result. They are the only ones that matter. The Windex I have claims to be on some 'Greenlist' that i am not familiar with. Every cleaner I have also states precautions and says they are dangerous if ingested or inhaled, and some if they come in contact with your skin. There is no mystery that they made to kill germs, which can also be harmful to the 'good germs' that are on/in people. Like you said yourself there really is no point in listing a bunch or long names that we cannot pronounce nor know what the heck it is. I admire your research into the topic, but once again I stress using less biased sources.

If you want to start complaining about household cleaners, you might as well bring in lotions, make-up, facial cleaners, deoderant, etc etc because they all have many of the same ingredients as the cleaners. I looked up the ingredients for Lysol being your first picture, and the main ingredient that is listed as 79% of the product is in many of those items I just listed.

I am not going to use water and vinegar to clean because real cleaners DO clean better. They kill germs! That is what they are supposed to do. That is why they have precautions, and tell you not to breathe them or ingest them. As far as pesticides go, I do not have a problem with those either. I don't bugs crawling on my food before I eat it. This is why you should always wash your food before you eat it, just to make sure anything funky that doesn't belong is gone.

As far as carginigens go there has been very little research that has been able to pinpoint what does and doen't cause cancer. I personally believe cancer is dependant on each persons body individually, and that it is more likely a combination of your genetic make-up, possibly combined with external factors. For example breast cancer has been linked to running in families.

I am not going to sit here for hours attempting to research any of this because you should, "Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see." So I have stuck to the facts that I know from my own brief life on this earth and hope you can take something from this.

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