Living Chemical Free - Part 1
Part 1 - Ways & Benefits Of Living Chemical Free
Topics for living chemical free:
Why Should I Be Concerned?
When exposed to certain chemicals or compounds, many of our chemically sensitive customers experience allergic reactions similar to those that dust-mite allergy sufferers experience. Chemical exposure can aggravate eczema and cause asthma flare-ups for those who are particularly sensitive. In fact there are millions of chemically sensitive Americans and millions more of us who are concerned about the negative health and environmental impact chemicals can have.
Every house has certain bottles and cans of liquid and powder that have "Caution" or "Danger" labels on them. In fact, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) reports that the average American household generates 15 pounds of household hazardous waste each year. Most people know and understand that direct contact or inhalation of such substances is never safe. However, recent studies show that prolonged exposure to a variety of common cleaners can cause problems, particularly in children. Researchers from Bristol University, UK, in an article published in the journal Thorax, studied 7,019 families to discover the effect of household chemicals such as bleach, paint stripper, and carpet cleaners on childhood asthma and wheezing. They discovered that families that frequently used household cleaning products had much higher incidences of asthma and wheezing among their children.
Which Household Chemicals Are Potentially Dangerous?
The chemicals and substances identified in the research studies include chemicals which many of us have in our homes: disinfectants, bleach, carpet cleaners, window cleaners, dry cleaning fluids, aerosols, turpentine or white spirits, air fresheners, paint strippers, paints and varnishes.
Listing the many multi-syllable chemicals in each of these common household items could become exhaustive and make you wish you had paid more attention in chemistry class. I will list a few household chemicals that the EPA says to look out for, and where they are found:
- Sodium hypochlorite (in chlorine bleach): if mixed with ammonia, releases toxic chloramine gas. Short-term exposure may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems.
- Petroleum distillates (in metal polishes): short-term exposure can cause temporary eye clouding; longer exposure can damage the nervous system, skin, kidneys, and eyes.
- Ammonia (in glass cleaner): eye irritant, can cause headaches and lung irritation.
- Phenol and cresol (in disinfectants): corrosive; can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, and kidney and liver damage.
- Nitrobenzene (in furniture and floor polishes): can cause skin discoloration, shallow breathing, vomiting, and death; associated with cancer and birth defects.
- Formaldehyde (a preservative in many products): suspected human carcinogen; strong irritant to eyes, throat, skin, and lungs.
- Hydrochloric acid or sodium acid sulfate in toilet bowl cleaner; either can burn the skin or cause vomiting diarrhea and stomach burns if swallowed; also can cause blindness if inadvertently splashed in the eyes.
- Residues from fabric softeners, as well as the fragrances commonly used in them, can be irritating to susceptible people.
- Possible ingredients of spray starch (aside from the starch) include formaldehyde, phenol, and pentachlorophenol; in addition, any aerosolized particle, including cornstarch, may irritate the lungs.
*source: Davis, Gary. "Safe Substitutes at Home: Non-toxic Household Products."
How Can I Keep My Family Protected
I don't intend to scare you with this laundry list (no pun intended) of potentially harmful household items. Remember that negative implications often occur only in sensitive individuals like asthmatics, or after prolonged exposure as mentioned in the UK study above, or when the potentially harmful substances are mixed with other chemicals. You should always use caution when handling chemicals, so here are some tips to protect yourself around the house:
- Use non-toxic products.
- Read the label and follow the directions.
- Wear gloves and protective clothing if product is harmful when in contact with the skin.
- Wear goggles if product can harm the eyes.
- Do not wear contact lenses when working with solvents.
- Stop using the product if you become dizzy, sick to your stomach, or develop a headache.
- For proper ventilation, it is best to use chemicals outdoors.
- Do not smoke when using flammable products.
- Never mix household products. Toxic fumes or explosions may result.
- Store compatible products together.
- See your health care provider immediately if you suspect you have been poisoned or injured from exposure to a household chemical.
Source: Seattle & King County Public Health
What Are Some Safe Alternatives To Common Chemicals?
The good news for asthmatics, and all of us concerned with chemical avoidance, is that there are alternative treatments to common, potentially harmful chemicals. And many of the alternative products have as good, if not better results, and are healthier in the long run! Here are some suggestions of safe products you can find in your pantry, as well as some convenience items you can find at National Allergy.
Kitchen & Bathroom
- Baking soda is a wonderful tool for neutralizing acid, deodorizing, cleaning and polishing, as well as removing stains. Combine it with some dry table salt for a great scouring powder.
- Lemon juice does more than jazz up ice-water! The citric acid it contains can deodorize, clean glass and disinfect cutting boards. Combine with 2 parts olive oil for a safe furniture polish.
- For chemical-free cleaning, I find no handier tool than the Microfiber Miracle Towel. With a small bit of water, the tiny fibers grab dust, dirt and even grease. Don't forget that you get a FREE 3-pack of these towels with orders of $95 or more!
- Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that may inhibit mold and mildew growth, boost the cleaning power of detergent and remove stains. Note: Boron compounds like those in Borax are also known to eliminate household critters, including dust mites! That's why it is the active ingredient in our Dust Mite And Flea Control.
- Vinegar is a smelly, but handy cleaning tool. It can dissolve grease, remove soap and wax buildup or clean out the metallic taste in coffeepots. Be sure to dilute your vinegar solution with about 1/2 cup vinegar per quart of warm water.
- NAS-12, a non-toxic, multi-purpose cleaner, works especially well on mold and mildew stains. Use it before applying No More Mildew and say goodbye to mold growth for months!
- Envirorite's Tub and Tile Cleaner contains no chemical additives or harmful chemicals and does tough work on stains and soap scum.
- Sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt, can be combined with lemon juice to make a chemical-free stain remover for clothes and carpets. (Salt is famous for helping with red wine stains).
- EnviroRite Laundry Detergent is 100% biodegradable and free of allergy-inducing agents and super-concentrated so you use less (just 1/8 cup for regular loads). Laundry Pre-Treat Spray is also available.
- AllerSearch Allergen Wash is a safe, popular product that not only cleans, but also has surfactants to bind to allergens found in your clothes.
- Static Eliminator Re-Usable Dryer Sheets keep you and your dryer safe, giving you the benefits of dryer sheets without the buildup and harmful chemicals.
- A tablespoon of De-Mite Laundry Additive takes care of dust mites in blankets, bedding and clothing with natural ingredients like tea tree oil. This product works great for cold-water washing.
General Cleaning & Odor Control
Keep reading - Continue To Part II
- Cornstarch is great for thickening up a stir-fry, but can also be used to clean windows, polish furniture and starch clothes.
- Eucalyptus Oil is a wonderful, natural fresh fragrance. Use a few drops when floor cleaning or wiping down bathroom surfaces. It can be also be a water softener for woolen fabrics. Note: Eucalyptus Oil with Menthol is the active ingredient in the Vapor-Eze Waterless Vaporizer, and is available to integrate into the filtration of the Clean-Air 5000 Air Purifier.
- The Glass Wizard removes fingerprints, greasy smudges and other soil from glass and other shiny surfaces so you can avoid using ammonia.
- Odor Neutralizer from The Ecology Works is an all-natural odor-eliminator that fights odors at their source instead of masking them with chemicals and artificial fragrances.
- The IQ Air HealthPro Plus is the ultimate air purifier for those concerned about formaldehydes, furniture and carpet off-gassing, and odor control. Not to mention its superior HEPA allergen-filtration.
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.