Cleaning a home or business is often a ritualistic experience, and one meant to remove matter we deem as dangerous, unhealthy or unpleasant to those living or working there.

It All Adds Up

Think about what you do and what products you use when you clean. You spray glass cleaner to wash the windows and mirrors. You use counter and tile cleaners in the bathroom and kitchen. You use smelly cleaners for your oven and chemicals for your clogged drains. Carpet cleaner, liquid floor cleaner, furniture polish, dishwashing liquid, detergent, shampoo - the types of products available to clean houses numbers in the hundreds and often not a second thought is given as to what kind of toxins they contain.

Recent studies show, however, that using many household cleaning products could have harmful effects. Since the late 1940s, there has been a dramatic increase in the production and use of synthetic chemicals in the U.S. Coincidentally, there has been a rise in the number of cases of environmentally linked chronic illnesses, such as asthma, allergies and chemical sensitivity. A recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that indoor air may be anywhere from 3 to 70 times more polluted than outdoor air. Another EPA study concluded the toxic chemicals found in many household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air.

But It Smells Good...

Often times, Americans equate clean with smelling good. Dish and laundry detergents, which are largely petroleum based and thus made from a non-renewable resource, often have chemicals added to them to make them fragrant, which can trigger asthma. Coincidentally, cases of asthma have risen 600 percent since 1980.

Many household cleaners contain phenols, which are listed by the EPA as being toxic and corrosive. Costs in the United States and Canada for treatment of environmentally induced health conditions are estimated at between $560 billion and almost $800 billion annually. And children are particularly vulnerable because their low body weight means they absorb a larger percentage of chemicals, thus putting them at greater risk.

There's also the threat of poisoning, especially among young children, from common household cleaners. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1,900 people each day in 2006 went to an emergency room due to poisoning.

These chemicals can also find their way into nearby water supplies, polluting them and putting others at risk. Though they are known to be harmful, current guidelines only suggest exposure limits and not banning them from use.

There is a way to clean homes or businesses and keep people and the environment safe.

Go green and stay clean

Green cleaning is a term used to describe products and processes that get things clean while also protecting the environment and the health of those living in it. Because they do not use the toxic chemicals found in other cleaning products, there is less worry about harmful side effects. Going green is a natural way to keep living and working environments clean, without harmful side effects.

In the home, green cleaning can mean a safer environment for family members, especially children. In a business setting, green benefits include increased productivity, better morale and less liability from worker related health issues. Green cleaning can be ideal for nursing homes and hospitals because it reduces indoor pollution, and is becoming prevalent in many public places in this country and Europe that cater daily to a wide variety of people with different health conditions.

It's Getting Easier

Going green and clean is becoming easier. Look for detergents with "fragrance free" on the label. Plant-based detergents, made from corn, palm kernel or coconut oil, are also available. This is better for the environment than petroleum-based cleaners because the plant-based product breaks down more easily and is made from a renewable resource. Furniture and metal polishes are also produced using mineral or plant oils, rather than dangerous solvents.

To clean drains the green way, first use a plumber's snake to clear any obstructions, thus reducing the amount of cleaner needed. To eliminate the rest of the built up material, use green cleaners that contain enzymes to break down substances instead of chemically based ones.

Using green cleaning methods and products can maintain the health of loved ones, save money and protect the environment. It has not only become a viable option, but a duty to seek the safest way to keep spaces clean and healthy.


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