Many household products that consumers regard as safe are full of harmful chemicals. It is easy to be green-washed since companies are trained in doing so! When purchasing cleaners it’s beneficial to research the company and read the ingredients. Chemicals in cleaners can pose threats to humans and wildlife alike and often we overlook what is really in our products.
In the past 25 years, only 15 per cent of the 80,000 new chemicals that have been invented since the 1950’s have been tested for health and safety, and none of them have been tested in combination. Almost 2,000 new chemicals are introduced each year: that is a daunting seven new chemicals per day! Be aware of green washing, which misleads consumers into believing that a product or service is good for the environment or that a company is following good environmental practices.
Research the product by checking the manufacturer’s website, and once you know that the product is safe, continue to purchase it. Looking at the ingredients specifically is a good start to help you learn more about the product that you are using. Finding out what the manufacturer’s policy is on the environment or on sustainability will also tell a great deal about the company. To learn how to avoid being greenwashed by eco-marketers, go to www.terrachoice.com.
In November 2007, TerraChoice released a report entitled, A Study of Environmental Claims in North American Consumer Markets. The study made several great suggestions about how to look for green washed products: A bathroom cleaner splashes Chlorine- Free on its label but doesn’t mention that it still contains other toxic ingredients. Light bulb manufacturers might claim their products are energy-efficient; yet, they provide no evidence or certification. Phrases such as ‘Chemical-free’, ‘Non-toxic’, and ‘All Natural’ lead us to believe a product is safe; however, something can be ‘All Natural’ and still be hazardous – tobacco, uranium, crude oil, mercury, and arsenic are ALL natural.
Here are 12 chemicals that studies have shown to have serious health impacts:
Antibacterials; Coal tar colours: FD&C Blue 1, Green 3; Diethanolamine (DEA); 1,4-Dioxane (present in sodium laureth sulfate and other -eth ingredients); Formaldehyde (from urea-based and quaternium preservatives); Fragrance; Hydroquinone;Mercury and lead; Nanoparticles; Parabens (methyl-, ethylpropyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-); Petroleum distillates; Phenylenediamine (PPD)
These are just a few harmful chemicals; there are many more, since about 100,000 chemicals exist today (and quickly growing), however, not all of them are in use. In Canada, there are more than 23,000 chemicals registered for production and use, and the majority have not been tested for their effects on human health, wildlife or the environment. For Canada-specific info, see www.toxicnation.ca, particularly “toxics dictionary” for help with terminology.
A common household product, fabric softener, actually contains 10 different chemicals that may be dangerous to your health and especially the health of your children. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are one of the most toxic products in your household, and may smell great but are actually dosed with hefty fragrances to cover up the smells of the chemicals. To avoid static, try using vinegar, a dryer ball, or chemical-free and reusable cloth dryer sheets in your rinse cycle.
In your home, avoid ingredients that trigger asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems. Some of the most effective household cleaners are the simple products our grandparents used such as baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, borax, cinnamon and orange peels – to name a few. Many of them are biodegradable and safe to use around children. They’re also inexpensive and easy to make and can be created with simple household products. Club soda also works very well to remove stains on your carpet.
Some of the products don’t clean as quickly as commercial cleaners, but after leaving them to sit on surfaces for a minute or two and using a bit of extra elbow grease, you’ll find they work just as effectively. Try using a non scratch sponge and you will be just as pleased with the results knowing that you are creating less of an impact on your health and the environment.
Adjust your expectations; the end result is the same. You may just have to get there differently. Motivate yourself and make a commitment to environmental sustainability by cleaning green and avoiding toxic chemicals. Attempt to reduce the impact of green washing by exposing it to the public; be aware and your general health will thank you.