Environmental issues with home cleaning products
Our only intention is to maintain a clean and healthy environment for our family. To help achieve this, we buy these “effective” cleaning products that promise to make our homes cleaner, more sterile, smell better… and they do, actually. But at what cost? We remove the germs and minimize viruses and bacteria, but in the process, we inhale toxic chemicals and expose our loved ones unknowingly. These are not included on the advertisements of home cleaning products, and we trusted that for many years.
Not only has it been proven that the chemicals in home cleaning products are hazardous to our health, they are also damaging to our environments. It seems that the cost of maintaining a sparkling clean and nice smelling house using commercially made home cleaning products, is too high. We can’t afford it.
Harmful Effects to our Health
We see the warning labels on home cleaning products, but we’ve somehow acquired selective vision. How seriously do we take these warnings? Poison, irritant, corrosive, flammable – the warnings are there. But they do not really define or advertise the exact effects. Otherwise, no one will but them.
Here are some conditions caused by exposure to the toxic chemicals found in home cleaning products:
- Severe Burns – are caused by corrosive chemicals. They can cause severe burns on the eyes or skin and if you accidentally ingest them, they can burn the throat and esophagus.
- Chronic Respiratory problems – are most often caused by the chemicals in perfumes and other fragrances. VOCs, ammonia and bleach are just some of the culprits.
- Hormone Disruption – are caused when chemicals like diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) mix with nitrites and form nitrosamines. These are carcinogens which can easily penetrate the skin. You can find these chemicals in most all-purpose cleaners. Hormone disruptors interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages and can cause birth defects, cancer and low sperm count.
- Skin Irritation and Allergies – are triggered by active ingredients on some cleaning products. As an example, Linalool, which is found on fragrances and essential oils can mix with proteins and for haptens. People who are exposed to haptens develop allergic reactions immediately. The ingredients which make cleaners very effective can also inflame and damage our delicate tissues.
- Poisoning and Death – are caused by accidentally inhaling or ingesting – and most of the victims are children. In 2010, U.S. poison control centers received 116,000 calls related to home cleaning accidents which involved children under age 5.
Did you know?
- Not all countries legally require commercial cleaning companies to test their products for human safety
- One EPA study confirmed that the toxicity of household cleaners are 3x more liable to cause cancer than external pollution
- 70% of American streams were found to contain laundry detergent ingredients
- Chemicals found in household cleaners such as Monoethanolamine (MEA), Ammonium quaternary compounds, Glycol ethers and Phthalates are all proven to cause asthma and reproductive damage
- Diethylene glycol, found in some window cleaners, is a nervous system depressant
- Household cleaning substances ranks 2nd as the reason for poisoning in children under the age of 5 years of age.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the air inside most of our homes can be 2 to 5x higher than outdoor air
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) such as phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia are the most hazardous to the environment, among the many toxic substances in household cleaners
- Children are more prone to the negative effects of chemical exposure since their immune system and organs are not yet fully developed
Harmful Effects to our Environment
- The manufacture of home cleaning products consume 6.2 billion pounds of chemicals, 30 million trees, and a billion pounds of janitorial equipment.
- Commercial home cleaning product manufacturers are a major consumer of petroleum, water and a producer of waste.
- It uses Phthalates on its packaging to keep plastic bottles from leaking, breaking and becoming brittle.
- The volume of waste it produces needs 40,000 garbage trucks and clogs the landfills.
- Disposal of chemical ingredients in the waterways is not being regulated. They are flushed down the toilets and rinsed down the drains.
- Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are dangerous water contaminants. The waste treatment facilities are unable to remove these contaminants and they enter rivers, lakes and oceans.
- VOC contributes to smog. Some areas became so polluted that the legislation banned the use of VOCs on household cleaners.
- When these chemicals are disposed of irresponsibly, they mix with our natural environment and disrupt ecosystems.
- 70% of American streams were found to contain laundry detergent ingredients. This affects aquatic life and have actually reduced the trout population even on low level exposures.
The list of harmful effects of commercial home cleaning products are long and frightening… and unnecessary. There are other ways to keep our home clean and disinfected. Go Green!