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Are your household cleaners doing more harm than good?

By Linda Jones

I admit it: I'm not much of a housekeeper. I try to keep my home and family clean -- well, as clean as preschoolers can be anyway. Did I mention I also have a brand new, mud-loving puppy? Needless to say, whether I'm a good housekeeper or not, I end up cleaning several areas and people each day.

There are dishes, laundry, floors, laundry, dishes, bathrooms, laundry, dishes, and finally more laundry. This isn't to mention baths, toothbrushing, hairstyling and makeup slathering. This is all very routine and similar, I would guess, to your routine (which is probably more thorough and better organized).

All that cleaning: friend or foe?
Why do we do these things? Because it's great fun and we can't wait to do another load? No! We do it for the health of our families. Dishes are sanitized in machines so we won't get sick when we eat or prepare food. Teeth are brushed so they don't get diseased and fall out. Floors are sucked and mopped so our kids don't inhale and play in dirt, hair and dander. I think you get the idea.

These are important reasons for doing what we do each day -- but what if all that we're doing is actually causing more harm than good?

Did you know that a study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the air in our homes is three to 70 times more chemically polluted than outdoor air, pollution and all? Did you know that there are 3 million poisonings each year and that household cleaners are the number one cause of poisonings in children?

Did you know that formaldehyde, phenol and benzene – all known to be cancer-causing and toxic to the immune and nervous systems -- are found in common household cleaners and cosmetics? In fact, most brand name household and personal care items contain hazardous chemicals.

Can you believe it? I couldn't, so I started researching the claims. This is only a small part of what I discovered.

Dangerous stuff
All-purpose cleaner, bleach, dishwashing detergent, disinfectant, glass cleaner and scouring powder contain dangerous chemicals, including:

Sodium hypochlorite If mixed with ammonia, releases toxic chloramine gas; may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems.

Ammonia Eye irritant; can cause headaches and lung irritation.

Phenol, Cresol Corrosive; can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness and kidney and liver damage.

Formaldehyde Suspected carcinogen; strong irritant to eyes, throat, skin and lungs.

Laundry detergents, softeners and anti-cling sheets as well as toilet bowl cleaners, mold and mildew cleaner and spot removers all contain toxic substances, including:

Perchloroethylene , 1-1-1 trichloroethane solvents Can cause liver and kidney damage if ingested; suspected human carcinogen.

Hydrochloric acid, sodium acid sulfate Can burn skin or cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach burns if ingested; can cause blindness if splashed in eyes.

Cosmetics and personal hygiene products contain hazardous substances as well, including cresol, formaldehyde, glycols, nitrates/nitrosamines and sulfur compounds in shampoos; butane propellants and formaldehyde resins in hair spray; aerosol propellants, ammonia, formaldehyde, triclosan and aluminum chlorhydrate in antiperspirants and deodorants; and glycols, phenol, fragrance and colors in lotions, creams and moisturizers.

The problem is everywhere
This is staggering news. I found web sites detailing specific ingredients in name-brand products that we use every day. Many of these are products you would never suspect contained dangerous chemicals, such as baby shampoos and toothpaste.

So what should we do? To prevent poisoning our children, we can place the items out of reach -- but is that enough? Our children come into contact with shampoo, toothpaste and the residues and fumes of several cleaners every day, whether the items are kept out of reach or not.

What then can we do to protect our families?

The best thing we can do is to change the items we buy. Rather than reaching for the name-brand cleaner in the grocery store, we should be seeking non-toxic alternatives. Only by making this product switch can we truly begin to protect our families. I've heard testimonies of better health and immunity and reduced asthmatic symptoms in families who have made the switch.

More and more non-toxic products are made available to consumers today. Some are found in grocery stores already, while others are found in health food stores and some are only found online. Switching to natural products is well worth your time and effort. Before you buy, research each product to make sure it is truly safe for your family and effective for your needs.

Linda Jones is a stay-at-home mom who participates in a home business that promotes healthier homes through safer products. For information on products or how you can be involved in a home business, contact Linda at [email protected] or visit her website at


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