What’s So Bad About Household Cleaners?
When I was a kid I had Saturday morning chores. My jobs were to dust and vacuum the living room, polish the furniture with Lemon Pledge and polish the brass table with Brasso. I recently mentioned this to my mother and joked that I clearly wasn’t allowed out into the fresh air until I had almost asphyxiated myself. My mother’s reply was to one up me by telling me she used to follow her father as he sprayed DDT around their cottage. Masks? Not a chance. Ha ha! Ha?
Not really that funny though. Household cleansers are being fingered for contributing to a myriad of health issues ranging from skin irritations and headache, asthma, and cancer as well as rising instances of autism, neurological disorders, ADHD and lower IQ. Apparently our homes are one of the greatest sources of toxins in our lives. The absurdity is that we pay a premium for it and we are spraying, spritzing and scrubbing these toxins into our counter tops, floors, laundry and windows through our cleaning products. And the most vulnerable? You got it – children. They are often at ground level and either licking or sucking absolutely everything in their path or putting hands in their mouths after touching items that have been treated with chemicals. How many times have I smooshed my nose up against the glass doors while my son does the same on the other side? It isn’t just that little people put their hands in their mouths. I found a presentation by Irena Buka, a general pediatrician, whose special interest is in environmental influences on the health and development of the fetus and children. She states: “The developing fetus and child have distinct exposure risks, making their bodies obvious receptacles for toxins… Kids need more calories and more water per unit of body weight than adults. Toxicants carried in food will be delivered at a rate 2-3 times higher in children than in adults. Water is delivered at 5-7 times the adult rate. Children also have more restricted diets with a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables. Pollutants such as pesticides in these foods are likely to be delivered in higher quantities to children. Because of their unique body-surface-to-volume ratio, and the nature of their respiratory development, kids inhale more pollutants per kilogram of body weight than adults. Children breathe more quickly. An infant has three times the minute ventilation of an adult. A 6-year-old has double. Environmental toxicants found in the air, both indoors and out, will be delivered to children at higher rates.” And this, is to say nothing of the cost to the planet.
I find myself scratching my head wondering how we got here in the first place. Maybe we didn’t know back then what rising toxicity levels would do to our kids and to ourselves. But we know now. There are ongoing studies looking at the long term impact of exposure to things chemicals found in cleansers, let’s take antibacterials for instance. The Centre For Disease Control has suggested that antibacterial are impacting immune system development in children. Based on my research it is astonishing that chemical based cleansers aren’t a thing of the past. On the contrary, the household cleanser aisle is almost as dizzying as the cereal aisle. So why don’t we protest the use of known carcinogens in products that we are told to use on counter tops where food is prepared and floors where children crawl, or my all time favorite, to spray directly on children’s toys to kill all those nasty germs? I’m guessing – because we simply don’t know. If cleansers came with warnings labels like those on cigarettes, it would probably give you pause.
So here’s a little something to think about:
Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Methanol may damage fetal nervous system and can cause cancer. You will find these ingredients in oven cleaners, disinfectants, detergents, toilette, tub and tile cleaners, metal polishes, drain openers, adhesives, paints and finishes. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. You will find it in air fresheners, antibacterial dish detergents, carpet cleaners, Swiffer mops and Lysol products.
*Kids and the Environment by Deborah Ostrovsky – December 7, 2010
Stay tuned for my next post:
What’s So Great About Making Your Own Household Cleaners?
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