Chemists Corner

Chemist’s Corner

Safe and Clean

According to the National Capital Poison Center, some of the most common household poisons are cleaning products. Somehow it does not make sense… using poison to clean the things that you encounter daily. Yet, the average US home generates 20 pounds of hazardous waste each year. Surely, there is a better way to clean!

Walking down the aisle at your grocery store with the plethora of cleaning products is sure to give you some overwhelm.  What is safe?  If it says ‘free and clear’ or ‘natural’, is that better for you and the environment?  Or, if you are like me, you are instantly hit with a headache from the artificial scents. 

Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose.  Some cause acute, or immediate, hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic, or long-term, effects such as cancer.  The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic.  But because the chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients but merely label them as containing “fragrance”.  Although most cleaners don’t list ingredients (according to the FDA, cleaning products do NOT have to tell you their ingredients), you can learn something about a product’s hazards by reading its label.  Most labels bear a signal word, such as Danger, Warning or Caution, that provides some indication of a product’s toxicity.  Beside the signal word is usually a phrase that describes the nature of the hazard, such as “may cause skin irritation,” “flammable,” “vapors harmful,” or “may cause burns on contact.” [1]

And what happens when these hazardous cleaners disappear down our drains?  They contaminate our lakes and streams.  The chemicals used in cleaning products can break down into even more hazardous chemical compounds that do not readily absorb into the soil or water.  In fact, a special class of chemicals detected from detergents and surfactants, called APE’s (alkylphenol ethoxylates), have been shown to be a hormone disruptor, thus mimicking the hormone estrogen. 

Are there ways to be SAFE and CLEAN?  Of course! 

         Jena's favorite 7 natural ways to clean that are safe!

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Joanna Bakken
Fall marks a time for change. Beautiful fall foliage is beginning to appear, kids are back to school, and summer is seeing its end.

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