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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Creating a Healthier Home - What am I cleaning with?




 


In an earlier post, I wrote about reducing the amount of VOCs in our home by replacing chemical fragrances with essential oils. To continue to improve the health of my home, I started looking at the cleaning supplies I was using.  I had heard from friends that some cleaning products could adversely affect the health of my family.
I decided to investigate three of the cleaners I use the most, which was my window cleaner, my stone and steel cleaner, and the bathroom cleaner.  I started my investigation by turning the bottles over to see what the ingredients were.  Here's what I found:
 
Window Cleaner
  • Solvents -liquids that can dissolve another substance, like grease, oil, or paint
  • Surfactants - compounds that separate lower the surface tension between two substances.  They are basically your "stain lifters".
  • Ammonia hydroxide -   This is basically water with ammonia, likely a high percent of water and low percent of ammonia.  Some states (like the state of New Jersey) have rated Ammonia Hydroxide as a serious hazard, because it can irritate and burn the skin and eyes, leading to eye damage.  Inhaling it can irritate lungs, and repeated exposure can cause dermatitis (dryness, itching, and redness of skin).  The greater hazard I see is the presence of ammonia, which in its pure form is extremely combustible, and in a fire, the water in Ammonia Hydroxide can vaporize, leaving pure ammonia, resulting in an explosion. 
  • Coloring - This was not helpful.  No other information about the "coloring" was given.
  • Water - pretty benign.
Other than listing Ammonia hydroxide specifically, I was disappointed that more information wasn't provided about the specific solvents and surfactants that were in the product.  While some surfactants have no effect on health and are pretty benign, others (such as PFOA/C8) have been linked to causing cancer.
 
Stone and Steel Cleaner
  • Water - pretty benign
  • Dimethicone/Silica/PEG Distearate Antifoam - lubricant and product thickener.  According to the Material Safety Data sheet (MSDS), ventilation is needed when using a product with this ingredient.
  • Ethanolamine - according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to this chemical leads to irritation to eyes, skin, respiratory system, as well as drowsiness
  • Fragrance - according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic.  But because fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies are not required to disclose their ingredients
  • Laramie Oxides - this is your cleaner, foam enhancer, stabilizer and thickener.  The MSDS states that exposure to the mist will cause irritation to the respiratory tract
  • Tetrapotassium EDTA - this product is used to remove hard water stains from counters, but is also listed as hard on the respiratory system
The big concern I have with this product is that every ingredient seemed to have a negative effect on the respiratory system, which is not something I want in my home with three young ones running around.
 
Bathroom Cleaner
  • I did not even have to look up the ingredients of this product to learn that this product is harmful to my family.  First there is the Precautionary statement that says the product is hazardous to humans and domestic animals.  Then there is a warning that says the product causes eye and skin irritation.  It also says to only use in a well-ventilated area and to avoid prolong breathing in vapors.  Considering I use this to clean my enclosed shower, I have probably been breathing the vapors in for some time now.  As I am pregnant, it is important I find an alternative to this product very soon.
After investigating what was in the cleaners I was using on a daily basis, I knew I needed to start looking into safer alternatives for my family.  Look for my part two of this series next Wednesday to find out what alternatives I found!

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