Marks Daily Apple
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26 Apr

Household Cleaners and Health Risks

We’ve talked a couple times this week about compromises of circumstances, which included environmental toxins. Although we can’t control everything around us, one simple (and economical) step we can take is to replace standard household cleaners with less toxic, naturally based products.

For now, check out this newscast feature from BostonChannel.com. Environmental and public health advocates in Massachusetts are lobbying the state to pass the Safe Alternatives Bill, which would require cleaners used in public buildings, schools and hospitals to be part of a safe product list already established by the State.

As the report explains, common cleaners like air fresheners, Lysol, Clorox and ammonia are potential contributors to the rising rate of asthma in the U.S. Twenty million people have asthma in this country, which the report says is three times the rate seen 25 years ago. Ten percent of school age children have the disease. Overall, asthma results in 16 billion dollars of health care costs. (Anyone who’s seen the annual cost of Advair –more than $2200 – will agree that asthma puts a financial strain on families, insurance groups and government agencies.)

The advocacy consortium, Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, (along with countless other health groups) warns that many conventional cleaners have a negative impact on the reproductive, endocrine and immune systems. As the report cites, unidentified ingredients can make up 99% of a cleaner. Current laws don’t require full disclose of all ingredients. Much of this unlisted content is synthetic “fragrance,” which contains phthalates, known endocrine disruptors. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of these substances, yet they’re often exposed more often than adults, given the daily use of these types of cleaners in schools and care centers. The bill proposed would replace the worst offending cleaners with effective, less toxic alternatives. Similar legislation has been passed in other areas of the country, including Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We always recommend limiting toxic chemical exposure. Modern living inevitably puts new and novel toll on our bodies. As for choosing safer alternatives for household cleaning, it’s a simple change that can have significant impact for you and especially for children and pets. The chemicals we so liberally spray, wipe, spread and apply present an unnecessary risk. With so many effective, cheaper alternatives out there, it just makes sense to choose safer options. Your endocrine system will thank you for it.

For more on the bill and the effects of cleaners, check out this PDF at Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.

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  1. I’d like to forward this to the adminstrative office of the district where I teach. Every afternoon right after school, our custodian comes in and whatever he sprays on the tables creates very strong chemical fumes. He breathes in this stuff all afternoon. I am sure he’s going to develop a chronic respiratory illness someday. Harmful, illness-causing germs cannot survive long at room temperature and the tables aren’t crusted with filth, so why the need for smelly cleaning fluid?

    Sonagi wrote on April 26th, 2008
  2. A wide variety of endocrine problems are certainly an epidemic these days. Removing anything that could cause problems, including phthalates, is simply a good idea.

    Crystal wrote on April 26th, 2008
  3. I can relate Sonagi. I did Custodial work at school districts for over 10 years. And I hated some of the chemicals we were forced to use. Most districts don’t seem to care though, they want products that are most cost effective and that will still get the job done, the health of custodians and the students & teachers that are exposed to these chemicals doesn’t seem to take top priority.

    Jerry wrote on April 26th, 2008
  4. Wonder how those “steam cleaner” appliances work (as-seen-on-TV)? Are they as effective as chemicals if one is looking to kill pathogenic bacteria? I haven’t seen any ads for them lately.

    Anna wrote on April 26th, 2008
  5. I agree that those chemicals are frightening. I don’t think they’re the elephant in the room that’s causing asthma though. Asthma has been increasing on the same timescale as obesity and diabetes in the US, and they’re probably caused by the same thing. I think it’s probably the crap food we eat and the lack of vitamin D that are the main culprits. But once you’re sensitized, chemicals can definitely exacerbate it.

    Sasquatch wrote on April 27th, 2008

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