Cleaning Cabinet Makeover

UPDATE: Due to the popularity of this article today and multiple comments and messages on FB I am adding a little give away because 1) I forgot it was Earth Day Today! Shame Shame on me… and 2) I love all of your ideas so much I would love for everyone to read them. See give away at the bottom of the post.

Reducing our toxic load is one of the most important components of living a long and healthy life. You might be surprised to know that the majority of our toxin exposure actually happens within our own household by products that we have purchased and brought home for cleaning purposes. In the year 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control. More then half of those exposures involved children under six. Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard, some cause acute (immediate) reactions such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or even chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic (long-term) conditions.

Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia. These produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and should not be used by people with asthma or lung or heart problems. These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other, or other chemicals, to form lung-damaging gases. The following is a short statement that may frustrate some scientists but to try to break it into easy terms…here we go… Combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia OR ammonia and lye (prominent in oven cleaners) produces chloramine gases, while chlorine combined with acids (commonly used in toilet bowl cleaners) forms toxic chlorine gas. Yummy.

Besides causing toxic fumes in our house, have you every thought about what happens to these chemicals when they go down the drain? They are treated along with sewage and other waste water at municipal treatment plants, then discharged into nearby waterways. Most ingredients in chemical cleaners do actually break down into harmless substances during treatment or soon afterward. Others, however, do not. Maybe this is more so on my mind because we live in a coastal community, but not only does this threaten our aquatic life population, it can majorly effect water supply. I know major is a subjective word…but in my opinion, this is major. In a May 2002 study of contaminants in stream water samples across the country, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested and 66% contained disinfectants.

So, we have a problem. Luckily, we also have a solution.

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