Due to chemicals in everyday products, the air quality inside our homes may be more polluted than outdoor air, even in major urban areas. The average person spends 90% of their time indoors, so the risk of pollution for the average American is greater from exposure to what is in our homes than outside.
Why Green Your Cleaning Products?
Scientists consider household cleaning products as one of the important sources of indoor air pollution and one of the most insidious threats to human health. Many of the conventional cleaning products we grew up with were loaded with toxic petro-chemicals. Many of these products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air we breathe and down our drains into our waterways. The long term effects of the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products are linked to a myriad of health problems, including: heart, liver, kidney and nervous system damage, hormone disruption, reproductive problems, respiratory problems and the list goes on.
What Are the Cleaning Product Manufacturers Hiding Behind?
A consumer survey shows that 88% of those surveyed believe that household products are tested for health and safety before they are sold and 87% think that cleaning product manufacturers are legally required to disclose the ingredients in cleaning products. Neither is true. According to a 1998 report by the US Environmental Protection Agency, of all the industrial chemicals in cleaning products, only seven percent have a complete set of screening level toxicity data. Chemical manufacturers are hiding behind a lack of regulation that allows them to keep their ingredient lists as trade secrets, to the detriment of consumers. However, that may soon change.
In February, 2010, the Bay Area Non-profit law firm Earth Justice filed lawsuits in the New York State Supreme Court mandating disclosures of ingredients in cleaning products. This was predicated on a re-discovery by an Earth Justice attorney of a long-forgotten New York State statute from 1976 authorizing the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to require household cleaning product manufacturers to disclose their chemical ingredients and information about the health risks they pose. Until now, the New York law was completely overlooked and no company filed a single report. In response to the lawsuit, Sunshine Makers, Inc. (manufacturers of Simple Green) filed disclosures of their ingredients, which are now available to the public. Likewise, SC Johnson responded by developing a website listing ingredients in key products, such as Windex, Pledge and Drayno. However, four companies refused to comply without a court order: Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Church and Dwight and Reckitt-Benckiser. The lawsuits against these four companies are pending.
What is the solution?
There are a number of companies that are now selling certified green products. Cleaning supplies certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo meet green standards. An even better solution is to make your own cleaning products with natural ingredients, most of which are already found in the home. Doing-it-yourself is a great way to minimize toxic chemical exposure, reduce environmental pollution and save money in the process. Homemade cleaners can be as effective or more, than their VOC containing counterparts. For starters, here is a recipe for a carpet cleaner that only takes a minute:
- •1 C. borax
- •1 C. baking soda
- •10 drops essential oil (suggestions: lavender, sandalwood, lemongrass)
Stay tuned as we share more DIY recipes.
And for Marin residents and visitors, Stacy will be teaching “Green Your Home - How to Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaning Products”on May 3, 2012. To sign up visit the Tam District Community Education website athttp://www.marinlearn.com/ , Course Number: 320108
Also visit our Facebook page for this event.
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