June 4, 2008

The Dirty on Household Cleaners

Have you ever noticed how your lungs tighten up, you hold your breath, and may even turn your head away as you spray your household cleanser on your counter tops?  I used to go so far as to run away from the area I was spraying and then come back in a few minutes after I thought the fumes had “settled.”  How odd is this that our bodies intuitively know that conventional household cleaners are poisonous, yet we continue to use them because they have become standardized in U.S. retail markets?

Conventional household cleaning products are a main reason why indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air quality.  That’s right, the air quality in your home, office, or classroom is worse than the polluted outside air!  That’s an alarming fact since we as Americans spend about 90% of our lives indoors.    

Chemicals to beware of:    

VOCs (volatile organic compounds), You may have heard of VOCs as they have been gaining attention.  VOCs are toxic vapors released into the air from many liquid cleaners, furniture polish, citrus oil cleaners, pine oil cleaners, solvents, aerosols, degreasers, spray lubricants, nail polish, nail polish remover, perfume, rubbing alcohol, hair spray, air fresheners, dry cleaned clothes, and spot removers.  Short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. These effects usually go away after the exposure stops. In laboratory animals, longterm exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney, and nervous system.

Ammonia, while it makes a great glass cleaner, is poisonous if swallowed and the fumes harm mucous membranes in your nasal passages, throat, lungs, and eyes.  

Phthalates disguised as “fragrance”, are often found in dryer sheets, cleaners, air fresheners, and many personal care products.  Phthalates are everywhere indoors!  They fume slowly and then stick to dust, which can be inhaled or ingested.  Phthalates can cause allergies, asthma, and disrupt estrogen metabolism (which contributes to certain cancers).  Phthalates are also linked to liver toxicity and genital malformation. 

The Solution

As an Organichead myself, who tries to make every attempt to make clean lifestyle decisions, I know it is nearly impossible to completely rid your environment of toxic chemicals.  However, by using non-toxic, natural cleaning products, and personal care products, you eliminate chemicals from the source!  This is also good for our environment, as those chemicals no longer end up in our air, water, animals, and soil.  You should also open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate, vacuum weekly, and run a good air purifier.  Small steps can go a long way when it comes to your health! 



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