Friday, October 28, 2011

That "clean" smell - not always a good thing

Nothing compares to the cleaning power of a good breeze.
One thing I lament about the coming colder weather is the fact that I won’t be opening the windows to air out the house. We have an air exchange system but nothing compares to the cleaning power of a good breeze.

With the windows closed I think more about indoor air quality and the everyday products that can make our homes decidedly unhealthy. Ironically, some of the worst indoor air polluters are the products that we use to clean and freshen up our homes, products like household cleaners, laundry detergents and air fresheners. And although many of the cleaning compounds themselves are related to health concerns, it’s the synthetic fragrances in these products that are a great concern. These artificial scents can contain hundreds of chemicals, none of which are required to be listed on labels. Instead, companies can use the catch-all term “fragrance” in ingredient lists.

In my books, fragrance is just another word for hormone disruptors, a range of common chemicals that interfere with the body's hormone systems and have been linked to some cancers, diabetes, central nervous system issues and fertility problems.

Research is growing regarding the dangers of the free wheeling use of these chemicals, leading to proposed legislation in the U.S. (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Exposure Elimination Act of 2011) which aims to prevent exposure to these chemicals in everyday products. Nothing is on the books yet in Canada.

Think of all of the scented products that you have in your home. Laundry detergent, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, bathroom cleaners, all purpose cleaners, stain removers, air fresheners, carpet cleaners, you name it. Virtually every cleaning product in your home that is scented contains a range of toxic chemicals. (The only safe scents are those courtesy of essential oils).

If you can smell these fragrances they’re entering your body, and holding your breath while you scrub the bathtub doesn’t really help. Children are especially vulnerable to these toxins, including developing fetuses. Hormone disruptors in household products are being washed down the drain and into our waterways causing similar problems with aquatic life.

It isn’t difficult to rid your home of scented cleaning products. Simply choose the unscented version. For those products that don’t offer an unscented option, choose an alternative. Avoid any product with “fragrance” on the ingredient lists or labeled with undeniably artificial scents (think “spring rain” or “ocean breeze”).
  • Avoid aerosols and sprays since they release smaller particles so are inhaled deeper into your lungs
  • Avoid air fresheners altogether, including sprays, gels and plug-ins. The chemical load in these products is especially high.
  • Choose products scented with essential oils (look for the EcoLogo certification to be sure that the scent isn’t artificially enhanced).
  • Go back to basics with products. Use baking soda as an air freshener and vinegar as a cleaner.
  • Open the window to disperse an odor or air out your house
Making the conscious choice to buy safer products is the key to staying healthy in your home.

No comments: