When we’re cleaning our homes, we tend to buy cleaning products because adverts tell us they work, not that they’re safe and won’t affect our health. Something I am always conscious of when investing in a new brand, whether that’s beauty or cleaning products, I want to know they work but also that they won’t affect my long-term health. That’s the scariest bit is the long-term health, isn’t it? If you suddenly contract contact dermatitis on your hands when you start to use a new product, you can quickly identify that it’s the mould or the new surface spray that’s causing this and you can discontinue using it. You probably would be able to get a refund too. However, what if, most of the products you use interfered with your health and these warning signs were harder to spot? These conscious efforts help us be mindful of what possible toxic chemicals we might be exposing ourselves too.
While the FDA theoretically governs personal care products, and the EPA oversees chemicals in general (household cleaners are included in this too), neither agency is required to demand safety data or to conduct studies around long-term health and ultimately, it is completely legal for companies to use known carcinogens.
Effects on Long-Term Health
According to science, cancer, ADHD, allergies and autism are on the rise. One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer, while one in three children will be diagnosed with ADHD, asthma, autism or allergies. Currently, our genes, physical environment, food supply chain and cosmetics are playing a complicated dance. We don’t tend to think of it, but our skin is our largest organ, consuming everything we expose ourselves to like a sponge. Too often, I hear, “it’s just luck”. It’s silly to assume chemicals that we aren’t aware of in literature aren’t having a profound effect on our health, especially when so many illnesses are on the rise, we must be more aware of what we consume. In a recent study, common cosmetic preservatives called parabens were found in biopsies of breast cancer tumours at levels that are similar to the formula levels in personal care products. Although we can’t control everything, knowledge of the products we bring into our homes and put on our bodies and breathe in every single day is a good place to start.
Another thing to note is that cleaning ingredients can pose acute, immediate hazards on asthma or respiratory inflammation, and long-term effects to organs like our lungs.
Acutely Dangerous Products
It is important to be conscious of the kinds of chemicals you clean with because you are breathing these chemicals in. If you can, try to open a window when cleaning, this will help. However, concoctions of certain cleaners can unleash hazardous reactions like the mixture of ammonia and bleach. Using cleaning products that contain bleach helps create clean surfaces and getting rid of viruses and bacteria but, research has shown that plant-based cleaners, kill viruses and bacteria quicker and better than most leading cleaning brands. Also, by using natural cleaning products you are avoiding releasing venomous fumes that cause coughing, airflow blockage and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
Fragrances that give many cleaners their aroma prevalent in laundry detergents or fabric softeners may trigger respiratory itchiness, headache, water eyeballs, and sneezing in hypersensitive individuals suffering from allergy or asthma. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health detected toxins in one-third of the substrates used in the fragrance industry. Their makers cloak these ingredients in secrecy.
Some ingredients to look out for are ‘diethanolamine (DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA)’, these nasty chemicals are linked to long-term or chronic conditions like cancer and hormonal imbalances. Some cleaners may also contain ‘Butyl cellosolve’, a neurotoxic compound is known to destroy brain cells and the nervous system.
Cleaner, healthier solutions to clean your home
The home cleaning health kick can be hard because you’ve built a lifetime of trust with another brand but, researching the ingredients yourself may help you come to terms with how your home can become even cleaner than before. One natural cleaning agent my mum has used for years is apple cider vinegar. She mixes a solution in a bottle for kitchen and bathroom cleaning and she simply adds an essential oil for fragrance as let’s be honest, vinegar isn’t the nicest of scents. I’ve been researching helpful websites that offer natural alternatives. A Little Find has been extremely helpful because it gives you a great selection of ethical alternatives for more natural living. I’ve listed some of my favourite cleaning products below.
There are some other natural brands and websites that house healthier cleaning products on the web, so you don’t have to stick to my list but it’s a great place to start. I also like to use Ecover detergent as other leading brands tend to irritate my skin. I also don’t want to wear toxic chemicals as that’s essentially what you’re doing. Chemicals don’t completely wash out when you wash them with detergent, they are left in our clothes to retain that freshly washed clothes scent we all love.