Our Habitual Selves
The movers had left. Boxes had been emptied. Time to clean our new home.
I grabbed some of the standard household cleaners I’ve used in the past and started off scrubbing the bathroom. I began cleaning the shower stall, spritzing a scum-removal cleaner when I was overcome with nausea and dizziness.
After getting some fresh air, I felt better but found myself wondering what was in this cleaner. After all the press about toxicity of everything from detergents to floor cleaners, I figured responsible cleaning product companies had cleaned up their act. But, I was so wrong.
I looked at the label of the shower cleaner – no listing of ingredients; instead a big warning “harmful if swallowed” and “to be used only in a well ventilated area.” Next I picked up the toilet bowl cleaner – no ingredients listed and a far scarier warning about disposal of the container. This plastic bottle was definitely not a candidate for my recycling bin. What next – the window cleaner for all those mirrors? More warnings but at least the key chemical – ammonia — was identified.
It was definitely time to clean out the cleaning supplies closet.
The Cleaning Conundrum
I’m an environmentalist who recycles, is adamant about clean air and water and wants to leave a better earth for my grandchildren. I’m a yoga teacher who avoids paraffin candles, cleans mats with tea tree oil and asks students to not use fragrances. How did I get lured into believing that the use of “green” on a label only refers to the color of its liquid and is not a “friend” to us, our families or the earth.
With fervor I began my research on the dangers of household cleaners. Secretly, I must admit I was hoping to be told to give up cleaning completely. Wrong – even little dust balls are like magnets picking up residue toxins and poisons.
Valuable Resources for Swtiching to Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) provides reputable research and a clear message on the challenge having a healthy home. Cleaning product companies are making a fortune as they convince us that we need an army of cleaning and air care products.What these companies are not telling us is that repeated use of these products exposes us and our families to harmful chemicals. From breathing them in to absorbing them through the skin, these toxic chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including pregnancy complications, breast cancer, birth defects, asthma and allergic reactions.
Women are taking the lead on the challenge to rid our homes and environment of the chemicals that are proving to disrupt our hormonal systems and making our children sick. Safer Chemicals has compiled a set of highly informative – and entertaining — videos aptly entitled Real Housewives of Orange Country. I encourage you to take a moment and hear about their campaign to get tough on toxic chemicals found not only in cleaning products but also in everyday consumer products.
Let me also recommend a visit to WebMD. In collaboration with Healthy Child Healthy World, WebMD offers sensible, doable steps for creating healthy home.
What to Do?
It seems the more fragrant the cleaner, the more deceptive the product often is. The cleaners we use regularly are often the worst culprits: all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectant sprays, and furniture polish. Each label needs to be evaluated carefully to assess its toxicity. The true telling point is when the ingredients are not listed. In other words, beware!
- Check all product labels and switch over to healthy alternatives
- Make your own cleaning products (white vinegar and baking soda will become your best friends!)
- Write to the national retailers asking them to take toxic cleaning products off their shelves
- Explore the use of natural oils to provide you with healthy alternative cleaning solutions
I would be remiss to not mention role of chemical toxins in the significant increase of breast cancer. Silent Spring has been leading research efforts that link pesticides, chemicals, fire retardants and everyday toxins to hormonal disruptors that increase our risk of getting breast cancer. More on this in another blog…
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