Clean Freak, Green Freak

iStock_000009894329XSmallEveryone loves a clean home, but few of us love the chore of cleaning. SAYS WHO!  I know people who could care less if their home is clean.  I also know women and men that love to clean.  I love to clean.  Cleaning makes me feel clean.  I would venture to say that most of us women love to feel clean.  When the space I am in is neat and clean I feel calm and relaxed.  I think better and work better when my home is clean.  I’m quite certain my friends love to have me for dinner because of my superior kitchen clean-up skills.  Cleaning your home is also a great way to squeeze a workout into your day.  You can conquer a complete workout, depending on what you are cleaning, your method of cleaning and for how long you clean.   While the physical act of cleaning can be a healthy and productive activity, what about the cleaning products we use to achieve that sparkle and shine.  Many of the cleaning products we use in our home may actually be dangerous for our health.  We often rely on a cocktail of hazardous substances to make our bathrooms sparkle and our floors and kitchen counters shine.  Admittedly, I love the aroma of  Pine Sol, Lysol, Murphy’s Oil Soap, even bleach in small doses.  Healthier alternative cleaners such as, vinegar, baking soda and citrus cleaners just don’t give me that same smelling “high.”  But, I’m working on getting used to the less potent smell of these alternative and definetly safer cleaning products.  Not only do traditional toxic cleaners present potential dangers to our bodies, they also poison the earth.  Dishwashing detergents often contain phosphates that pollute the ground water; wood polish generally contains flammable toxins like nitrobenzene; and laundry detergent may contain bleach and other corrosives.  We lock these compounds away in closets and under the sinks to keep our children and pets safe.  What does that tell you?

Even as they help us pick up dust and dirt, many modern cleaners irritate our skin, eyes and lungs.  They can also leave toxic residues or pollute the water when we rinse them down the drain.  But keeping our homes clean and avoiding toxic cleaners don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  As I’m sure you have noticed in grocery stores today, several companies now produce “green cleaners” that avoid ingredients that are toxic and don’t biodegrade.  Green cleaners can also be made from a range of safer substances we keep in our home. I have tried to get in the habit of using vinegar, baking soda and fresh lemon to clean just about everything.  Granted, I miss the wonderfully intoxicating aroma of Pine-Sol and sometimes I’m tempted to go back to my old unhealthy ways.  When this urge arises, I take a deep clean breath and a moment to remind myself of the possible dangers and consequences of my old cleaning habits.  I  don’t want to risk my health, my loved ones or the planet.  I feel a strong sense of obligation to do my part to preserve the earth these days.  I’m learning to be a green freak as well as a clean freak!

Household cleaning chemicals put everyone at risk – adults, children, pets, and our water supply.

Did You Know?

Every year, according to the EPA 5-10 million household poisonings are reported with many of these poisonings being fatal.

Cleaning products were responsible for 10% of toxic exposures reported to the U.S. Poison Control Centers in 2000, accounting for 206,636 calls.  Of these, nearly two-thirds involved children under six, who can swallow or spill cleaners stored or left open in and around the home.

Thousands of domestic animals get sick or die every year from licking and swallowing toxic cleaning products left around the house.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the typical home is 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside-and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated-largely because of household cleaners and pesticides.

The Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project reports that 6 out of every 100 janitors in Washington State have lost time from their jobs as a result of injuries linked to toxic cleaning products, particularly glass and toilet cleaners and degreasers.

In 2002 U.S. Geological Survey study of contaminants in U.S. stream water, 69% percent of streams sampled contained persistent detergent metabolites, and 66% contained dangerous disinfectants.

What is not being reported are the slow poisonings that occur in every home from continual exposure to household cleaning chemicals.  Cancer, birth defects, heart disease, genetic changes-almost any symptom imaginable, both physical and mental has been associated with certain chemicals in common household products.  At greatest risk are fetuses, children, the elderly, pets, and those who are already ill.

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