Spring carries with it the urge to cleanse our bodies and our minds to air out, dust off and clean our spaces. Unfortunately, most conventional cleaning products actually make our homes dirtier by leaving behind a toxic trail of chemicals. From VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to phthalates, so-called cleaning products have been linked to numerous long term health problems, including respiratory illnesses and hormone disruption.
The Trouble with VOCs
VOCs are common fragrance ingredients in cleaning products. These toxic scent ingredients are not required to be listed on the label and can be hidden under the listing, "fragrance." Because the regulations surrounding ingredient disclosure for cleaning products are so poor in North America, even products that claim to be "natural," "green" or "organic" can still contain VOCs. Oddly enough, even products labelled as fragrance-free or unscented typically contain fragrance chemicals to create a neutral scent. Common VOCs are benzene, acetone and formaldehyde. VOCs are released into the air as gases and are linked to a long list of health problems, including lower birth weights and IQs in children exposed in utero. ?A recent study by Environmental Defence had 14 volunteers clean their kitchens for 30 minutes with conventional cleaning products and measured VOC levels both before and after. They found that in nine of the homes, VOC levels increased by 120%! In 12 of the 14 homes, VOC levels after cleaning were higher than the German recommended level of exposure! Unfortunately, even when "green" cleaners were tested in this study, VOC levels still went up (by 35% on average).
Scents and Phthalates
Phthatates help scents to linger and can also be hidden under the "fragrance/parfum" listing, so youll rarely see them disclosed on a label. Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to early onset puberty, reduced sperm count in males, reproductive disorders and obesity. Although phthalates are airborne, they settle and accumulate in dust around the home. One study that measured phthalate levels in house dust found a correlation between higher exposure to these chemicals and elevated incidences of allergic conditions in children, including asthma and eczema.
From VOCs to DIY!
Cleaning shouldn't be toxic! This spring, freshen your home with these simple and natural (for real!) cleaning recipes.
Use on kitchen counters, sinks, tubs, stove tops and ovens. The baking soda helps to remove dirt and grime without scratching surfaces. It also acts as a natural deodorizer. The castile soap cleans and lifts dirt and grime. The lemon essential oil adds a lovely scent and also helps to cut through grease. Extras keep for several weeks, just stir again before use.
The alcohol helps to suspend the essential oils in the water. Spray in rooms to freshen and eliminate odours. Safe on most fabrics, but do a test spot first.
What spring cleaning project have you been dreading (or loving)?
Share it with us in the comments below!