I used to believe that if it was on the shelf for sale, then it was safe – that someone had done the due diligence and tested the product and that there were laws protecting us.
The truth is that our laws in this area are old and that they only test for first-aid type hazards, not long term use type safety. Even if they started to do testing, we’re so far behind that it would take a very long time to catch up. We’ve created over 80,000 man-made chemicals not to mention the yearly parade of “New and Improved”.
I wanted to show a few of the cleaning chemicals that are commonly marketed to us but aren’t as innocent as we thought.
The great information below is quoted directly from the website of The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia.
Cleaners may contain ammonia, a strong irritant which can also cause kidney and liver damage, butyl cellusolve which is neurotoxic and rapidly penetrates skin, and ortho phenylphenol which is a severe eye and skin irritant. Many all-purpose cleaners contain DEA and TEA which can react with nitrites (added as undisclosed preservatives or present as contaminants) to form carcinogenic nitrosomines which readily penetrate the skin. Many coloured products are made with carcinogenic coal tar colours. Hormone disrupting parabens may be used as preservatives. Many cleaners also include fragrances and detergents. Alternative brands may contain d-limonene, a sensitizer which can also cause respiratory distress as well as liver, kidney and nervous system damage. D-limonene is a hazardous substance, although it is derived from a natural source. We do not recommend it for frequent use.
Most glass cleaners are made of ammonia, a strong irritant, and coal tar dyes. Some contain butyl cellusolve, a neurotoxin, alchohol, naphtha, and glycol ethers. Some contain wax. Aerosol products create small particles which are more likely to be inhaled or irritate eyes.
The main ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite (chlorine added to lye.) Chlorine is toxic as a skin irritant, and by inhalation. Sodium hypochlorite can create poisonous chlorine gas if mixed with ammonia (which may be an unlabeled ingredient in some cleaning products) or with vinegar. Workplace safety data sheets warn that sodium hypochlorite may be a neurotoxin and cause liver damage. People with chemical sensitivies report adverse reactions to minute quantities of chlorine. Sodium hypochlorite readily combines with organic matter to form organochlorines which are highly toxic to aquatic life.
Sink, Tub and Tile
Sink, tub and tile cleaners can contain ammonia and dimethyl ethylbenzylamonium choride, both strong irritants, ethylene glycol, a neurotoxin and reproductive toxin which may also cause kidney and liver damage, sodium orth-phenylpenol, a carcinogen and irritant, and trisodium nitrilotriacetate, a carcinogen. Some brands use highly caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and phosphoric acid that can burn eyes and skin. Breathing vapours can burn lungs.
I didn’t want to make this an incredibly long post but I hope I’ve put enough to get you thinking about what you use to clean your home, office, and schools. I’m happy to be able to offer you solutions that are green, environmentally friendly, natural, alternative and responsible.