How much of your day do you think you spend indoors? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most people spend about 90% of their time inside. With all that time spent indoors, it is important to make sure that your indoor environment is as toxin-free as possible. However, the bad news is that the air inside our homes is 2-5 times dirtier than the air outside! There are so many factors contributing to this indoor pollution, including upholstered furniture containing carcinogenic flame retardant, mattresses that are full of chemicals that can disrupt your hormones and immune system, carpets that can irritate your respiratory tract and eyes, paint full of VOCs that can damage your nervous system, and cleaning products that are full of harmful chemicals with a whole host of deleterious health effects.
Instead of trying to address every single one of these, this month I challenge you to detox your cleaning supplies. Every small change you make to clean up the environment in which you live can have huge impacts in your long term health. So to start with, let's clean up the cleaners.
Toxic Cleaning Products
So what exactly is in our cleaning products that is so toxic? Well, the list is pretty long, but here are a few of the biggest culprits and their health effects.
- Chloroform: A proven animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen, that also affects the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Can be released from chlorine bleach containing products.
- Formaldehyde: This is a known human carcinogen that is added to some cleaning products as a preservative, and sometimes forms due to a chemical reaction between other chemicals in the cleaning product. It also has harmful effects on the nervous and immune systems.
- Glycol Ethers: Solvents found in some cleaning products that have reproductive toxicity, immune toxicity and other health effects. Ex. 5. 2-Butoxyethanol is a glycol ether found in window and multi-purpose cleaners that may contribute to liver and kidney damage.
- Phthalates: These chemicals are often masked on the ingredients list under the ambiguous label of "fragrance". They are known endocrine disruptors (estrogenic), and are toxic to the lungs, nervous system, immune system liver and kidneys. You are better off avoiding cleaning products with fragrance added all together. Natural essential oils added to some cleaning products provide a much safer option.
- QUATS (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds): These are chemicals can cause asthma and skin irritation. They are found in antibacterial cleaners and fabric softeners.
Detoxing your Cleaning Products
It can be overwhelming to have to figure out the toxicity of your cleaning products yourself. And to complicate matters further, just because something says it is "natural" on the label, does not mean it is non-toxic or safe! That said, the good news for you is that the Environmental Working Group has a fantastic resource for assessing the toxicity of your cleaning products, called the Guide to Healthy Cleaning. It provides a safety rating for over 2500 commonly used cleaning products. I would recommend using this valuable resource to assess how safe your current cleaning products are and, if they are not rated as safe, to use the resource to find alternatives that are better for the health of you and your family.
Another option to purchasing non-toxic cleaning products is to make your own! With a few simple ingredients, such as distilled white vinegar, Castile soap, antimicrobial essential oils, baking soda, lemon and regular ol' water, in your cleaning tool kit, you can easily put together a variety of natural, non-toxic cleaning products.
To help you out, I'll be sharing some of my favorite natural cleaning products, DIY non-toxic cleaning products and more information about toxins found in common cleaning products, on the Roots Whole Health Instagram and Facebook pages this month. So make sure to "follow" if you want to be kept in the loop!
Looking forward to cleaning up the cleaners with you!
Dr. Khaira, ND