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Could regular “store-bought” cleaners be costing you your health? If so, what are some healthier alternatives? The main concept we need to understand is that our bodies are porous. We often think that our skin is impervious to outside toxins and invaders… but it’s not! Just think about the commonly used ‘patch’ for birth control. Hormones are delivered to the body through the skin. Smokers who want to quit smoking use a nicotine skin patch which slowly delivers small amounts of nicotine to the bloodstream. What we wash our hands with, get on our clothing, clean our bathrooms with, and use to clean our dishes and floors is absorbed through our skin and into our bodies. This happens much more easily than we previously realized.
Some ingredients in these products have even been identified as causing cancer and developmental problems. Although you may think exposure from just one product couldn’t be that harmful, repeated exposure over years and years, can be major health culprits and have even been found passing through the umbilical cord into newborns. On average we use 10 personal care products per day, so when you add all the products together with repeated exposures, they accumulate in our bodies!
“Fragrance” is one of the worst offenders creating potential health hazards such as allergies and is listed as a “humane immune toxicant” according to the environmental working group (EWG). There are 3,163 (DID YOU CATCH THAT??…3,163) different chemicals that hide behind the word “fragrance” – most of them being hazardous to health. The most dangerous of them are: “phthalates, octoxynols and nonoxynols. Phthalates are potent hormone disruptors linked to reproductive system birth defects in baby boys. Octoxynols and nonoxynols break down into persistent hormone disruptors, as well.”
Chlorine bleach and ammonia are acutely toxic and in combination with acids such as toilet bowl cleaners they form toxic chlorine gas. Two other common cleaner ingredients – Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA)- can form nitrosamines if combined with nitrates. Nitrates are hidden on the label under the word “preservatives”. Nitrosamines are known to be cancer causing.
What do we do to avoid these nasty chemical exposures? Avoid the supermarket! Even “natural looking” cleaners are suspect and contain fragrance. Read the labels! You can make your own household cleaners with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice or you can look for natural cleaners that use citrus essential oils instead of fragrance.
Natural, Non-Toxic Cleaners
What non-toxic options for cleaners are there? In South Africa, I used the “Earthsap” brand for dish liquid, all purpose cleaner and air freshener which you can find in health food stores or at Faithful to Nature online. Dr. Bonners (yup, we all laugh at the name when we first hear about it!;)) all purpose cleaners can now also be found at Faithful to Nature. I used “Green Box” for laundry powder and dishwasher detergent. Their ingredients are simple ingredients I can understand and do not contain fragrance. In the States, I use “Biokleen” laundry detergen, Seventh Generation dish soap and 7th Gen. dishwashing powder. I use Dr. Bonners for all purpose cleaning and bathroom cleaning. These natural cleaners usually often sodium carbonate (a fancy word for baking soda) and citric acid (think lemon juice/orange peels) and essential oils (made naturally from plants – not synthetically).
“Look for natural cleaners that contain simple ingredients you can understand and do NOT contain fragrance!“
I hope you’ll throw all your toxic cleaners out TODAY and buy some ‘clean’ cleaners that don’t have the potential to cause you health harm! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.