The following is a guest post from Sarah at Renaissance Mama!
I’m all about killing bacteria. I read enough Robin Cook novels in high school about viruses decimating populations that I was all for any cleaner that would wipe them out. My numerous science classes and labs in college only strengthened that resolve.
Then, I learned that, while these cleaners might kill germs in my house, they were probably also slowly killing me. (Dramatic? Definitely. But accurate? Unfortunately so.) The EPA says our greatest exposure to toxic chemicals is at home.
A Canadian news channel, CBC, reported in their show called The Nature of Things (2002), that “on a typical cleaning day in a typical home, levels of chemicals in the indoor air can be hundreds, even thousands of times higher than the outdoor air in the most polluted of cities. In fact, indoor air pollution levels would be high enough to trigger an inspection by health and safety authorities in any workplace setting. Many chemicals contained in household cleaning products are the same as those used in industrial settings. Many scientists are now becoming concerned that long-term low-level exposure to chemicals may be just as dangerous as short-term high-dose exposures. They also worry that we do not understand the impact of exposure to the cocktail of chemicals found in household air and dust.”
Toxic Chemicals in Cleaners
What sort of cocktail might they be referring to? Here is just a smattering of examples found in ordinary cleaners (from the LessToxicGuide.ca).
A neurotoxin that may cause liver and kidney damage, and damage to the developing fetus. Found in nail polish remover, spot treatment cleaners, mark and scuff removers, and other products.
Suspected carcinogen, a skin and respiratory toxicant, & a severe eye irritant. Used in a wide range of household cleaning products.
Also listed on labels as citrus oil and orange oil. Used as a solvent in many all-purpose cleaning products, especially ‘citrus’ and ‘orange’ cleaners. D-limonene is the active ingredient in some insecticides. This chemical is produced by cold-pressing orange peels. The extracted oil is 90% d-limonene. It is a suspected carcinogen, a sensitizer, a neurotoxin, a moderate eye and skin irritant, and can trigger respiratory distress when vapors are inhaled.
Ethoxylated nonyl phenol
Nonyl phenols are hormone disruptors & some contain traces of ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen. They are eye and skin irritants. Used in laundry detergents and other cleaning products.
In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Formaldehyde is also a sensitizer, with the potential to cause asthma. Several laboratory studies have shown it to be a central nervous system depressant. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. Used in a wide range of products, including some toilet bowl cleaner, kids shampoos, furniture polishes [and no-iron bed sheets!!!] It’s also cloaked under several different names, including methylene oxide and urea.
This list could go on and on…and on. I’ll spare you. For a list of products that contain these ingredients, check out the US Dept of Health and Human Services Household Products Database.
The oh-so-ordinary SuperCleaner
You’ve perhaps heard the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. In this case, I was doubtful about trading in my high-powered cleaners for something oh-so-ordinary. Little did I know that the oh-so-ordinary was actually Superman in disguise!
Studies indicate that this super cleaner kills the majority of bacteria, including e coli and salmonella. It’s also completely non-toxic. SuperCleaner is a natural organic bi-product of fruits, vegetables, and grains and can be used to clean almost anything in your house. You can read more about Vinegar on Wikipedia.
Have you guessed SuperCleaner’s true identity?
White distilled vinegar.
You can find website after website touting its usefulness – Reader’s Digest featured it in their series on Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things – with 150 examples of ways to use it in your house!
So I encourage you – dump your expensive and toxic cleaners, and spend $2 on a big jug of distilled vinegar.
*As with most good things, there is a counterfeit. Read the ingredients on the vinegar you purchase to insure that it is made from fruits, vegetables, and grains, and NOT petroleum.