When the bathroom starts to look dingy and you pull out all the conventional brushes, sponges, sprays and bleach and start scrubbing, you expose yourself to hundreds of chemicals that have known, and possibly unknown, toxic effects.
Green cleaning products claim to offer safer alternatives for humans and the planet, but at a higher price. So what’s an environmentally conscious consumer to do?
“We are exposed, in the process of cleaning our homes, to more than the manufacturers projected,” Natan said. “You get the sum total together, and you’ve got to wonder, why are you using these things?”
And that’s just the story for humans. Factor in the overall planet’s health, and it gets murkier.
Certain chemicals commonly found in conventional cleaning products present known or suspected problems for the people that use them and the environment once washed down the drain.
Volatile organic compounds, used to enhance the performance of a product, can impair neurological functions, while other chemicals can act as respiratory irritants, carcinogens or reproductive toxins, depending upon the extent of exposure, according to the National Environmental Trust and other environmental groups.
Phosphates can cause the eutrophication of rivers and other bodies of water, which can deplete them of oxygen and decrease water quality.
There is little regulation of cleaning chemicals, and there are virtually no labeling requirements to let people know what they are exposing themselves and the planet to.
Companies select ingredients for cleaning products to enhance their performance, but “a lot of the chemicals, we simply don’t know anything about,” Natan said.
For example, phthalates, which are suspected to have adverse hormonal effects, help distribute dyes and fragrances and act as plasticizers. Other chemicals are used to keep a product stable on the shelf, while others, such as glycols, act like anti-freeze. Still other chemicals could simply be impurities left over from the manufacturing process.
With some 80,000 chemicals in common use, there are still some that could have as-yet unknown toxic effects.
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