Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Green Scrubbing

Now that we’re in a remove-poisons-from-our-home-and-planet frame of mind, let’s take a look at household cleaner.

TO Do This Week

Jane and I currently pay a fortune for a natural household cleaner. After some experimentation on effective cleaners, we’ve come to love Ecover. Why? It’s foamy. Oh…and it does a very good job of making our bathroom and kitchen bright and clean.

Why do we need to take out a small loan to buy a natural household cleaner? Well, when I was using Lysol, I would often wonder about the chemicals I was dousing my bathroom with. I have to say I wasn’t terribly impressed with the fumes I was inhaling. Ever wanted to know what’s in the bottle? (You really don’t have to take a second job just to clean your house. There are alternatives – please read on…)

What’s the Big Deal? According to Green Clean authors Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin, as reported in Utne (October 2005), synthetic chemicals lurk within most cleaners. How much? If you use a regular household cleaner, chances are you are unleashing 40 pounds of synthetic chemicals into the world each year.

According to The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, household cleaning products make up nine percent of your home’s toxic air pollution and 1.1 percent of its GHG contribution.

Of course, these products don’t list the ingredients (trade secrets, don’t you know). However, they tend to carry a mixture of the following:

Synthetic Organic Compounds
You find these in detergents and plastics as well.
- Aromatic Hydrocarbons – Known to be carcinogens. Used in degreasers, deodorizers and pesticides.

- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – These little guys evaporate at room temperature and attach to soft materials such as clothes, drapes, furniture and carpeting. They eventually dissipate outdoors and contribute to smog.

- Petrochemicals – Linked to oil spills, greenhouse gases and childhood development problems. You can find them in floor waxes, furniture polishes, degreasers and all-purpose cleaners.

Chlorinated Compounds
Chlorine was introduced to the planet during WW1 when soldiers used it to gas each other. Currently it’s used in your cleaning products, such as sanitizing and bleaching agents, solvents in dry cleaning, and tub and tile cleaners. Chlorinated compounds are known to affect sperm counts and male birth rates.

We’ve all heard of these, common in laundry detergents. The phosphorus in phosphates act as a nutrient in the water system. Too many of them spur on growth of algae and weeds, which kill off other plants and animals due to lack of oxygen.

Take Action
This crazy chemical arsenal against the dreaded germ seems overkill to me. Happily there are alternative cleaners out there that can do the job without stripping your lungs or killing sperm. Honest to Pete!

Of course we know that salmonella and e coli are not our friends (some may argue they have links to Al-Qaida). Do green cleaners really do the job? According to a 1998 article in Mother Jones, neither green nor synthetic chemical effectively killed off those particular germs. Who knows? It was hard to get a straight answer in my googling. If anyone has any idea, please let me know.

You can visit your local health food store for cleaners (which cost about double the price of toxic cleaners) or you can create your own. Visit the following websites for recipes. Note the use of Borax which, although a natural mineral, does have harmful effects.

Recipes for Household Cleaners

Clean & Green – I suggest turning your speakers off.

Earth Easy – Non-Toxic Home Cleaning

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