Using Safe Green Cleaning Products

Claire Anderson explains the need for safe green cleaning products, includes green cleaning product recipes.

| February/March 2003

The Green Gazette shares information on safe green cleaning products.

All winter long, they've been multiplying. Dust bunnies beneath your bed, behind your dresser, on top of the refrigerator. Mud-encrusted mukluks and wet Wellingtons have left their dirty footprints in your foyer and down the cellar stairs. And don't even consider what's been lurking under the living room rug these few months.

After a season of hibernation, it's no wonder that when the first breath of spring arrives, we pry creaky windows open, fling back the curtains with wild abandon and swing the doors wide open to sweep out winter's accumulation of dirt and grime.

But before you break out that bucket and mop to usher in a new, fresh season, take a moment to consider what you're cleaning with. The "biodegradable," "nontoxic" product you plucked from the supermarket shelves may not be as benign as its label proclaims. The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act stipulates that manufacturers must disclose active ingredients that are acutely hazardous, but inert ingredients that may produce chronic effects do not have to be labeled at all.

Many cleaning products contain chlorine, petroleum-based surfactants and distillates, formaldehyde and germicides — many of which are potent poisons. As well as being environmentally harmful especially in aquatic systems, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is a eye and lung irritant, and can cause burns. Nitrobenzenes found in many furniture and floor polishes have been associated with cancer and birth defects. Formaldehyde a common preservative in many household products, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA reports that an "average" household contains anywhere from three to 25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are cleaners. A 15-year study conducted in Oregon found a correlation between chronic exposure to cleaning products and an increased cancer rate in women who worked at home. Clearly, it's sanitary insanity to clean with products that pollute our homes, our bodies and our planet, but what's a neat freak to do?

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