How to keep safe and green at home

Sustainability Now News
by Maryann Ridini Spencer

“Caution,” “Toxic,” “Danger,” “Keep out of reach of children,” are common words found on traditional cleaning product labels sitting on store shelves waiting for purchase. However, exposure to harsh chemicals can not only potentially irritate our skin and burn our eyes, but research now indicates that the long-term exposure may also result in significant adverse health consequences.

Aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, and a host of other common household products are also known to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. When these types of products are used, the air quality inside our homes can be up to 1,000 times more polluted than the air outside our homes.

Leaving the harmful chemicals behind for safer, non-toxic choices is wise in the best of circumstances, but especially if you or a family member has a health condition such as asthma or allergies, or if you have small children or pets, where contaminants can hang low in the air, or on the carpet or floor where babies and pets play.

The extent and nature of health effects depend on many factors, however, why risk exposure to harmful chemicals that can cause such potential ailments as “eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous systems,” if exposed?

When a product is legitimately labeled “safe” and “green” it will be certified by one of the nationally recognized independent standards and certifiers. Look for the UL logo (industries.ul.com), the Green Seal (greenseal.org), and Safer Choice imprint (epa.gov/saferchoice).

To help consumers navigate what products are eco-friendly, and which are not, there are also extremely helpful sites like ewg.com, which delves into product ingredients and rates household items in addition to offering healthy alternatives for everything from cleaning products to dishwashing liquids and detergents, to furniture and floor care, as well as other products. For personal products such as makeup, hair, nail, and other care, Ewg.org/skindeep also describes and rates items.

Some of the best, safest choices to opt for consist of DIY mixes created at home using such items as baking soda (deodorizes, cleans, scours), lemon juice and white vinegar (cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, even stains), olive or coconut oil (for polishing wood), hydrogen peroxide (a disinfectant and stain remover), and the list goes on. Google homemade DIY eco-friendly cleaners and a host of informative websites pop up.

Here are just a few DIY recipes you may want to try:

• Air Freshener – small bowls of fragrant dried herbs or your favorite blends of essential oil

• Wood Polish– olive or coconut oil make excellent polishing agents

• Dish cleaner – castile soap, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds

• Window cleaner – 2 tsp. white vinegar with one quart of water in a spray bottle (use a cotton cloth to wipe)

• Title and Tub Cleaner – baking soda on a damp sponge (for tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first using vinegar sparingly around tile grout as it will cause the grout to break down)

Keep it safe. Keep it green.

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