We spend many hours at home, so it's important that we learn about the safety of the air we breathe and the water we drink. While food manufacturers must list all ingredients in their products, it takes a chemistry degree (my husband has one) to decipher the list of ingredients.
Cleaning products are only required to list the active ingredients. When buying cleaning products, the more “signal words” there are on the packaging, the less safe the product. One article I read suggested never buying a product with more than one use of the word “caution”. Once you bring the products home, review the label carefully and follow the instructions.
How Safe are Our Homes?
Remember that it's not just one product but the cumulative effects of many products in your home that affect the air you and your family breathe. Here are precautions for buying and using potentially harmful cleaning products:
- Where possible, try to find alternative cleaning solutions that are less or non-hazardous. You can research many of these solutions online.
- Don't mix products unless the labels specifically say you can do this safely. In fact some products will warn against use in combination with another product like bleach and toilet bowl cleaners.
- Don't mix different brands of the same product as they may be manufactured with different chemicals that become toxic when combined. Putting on my handyman hat, we make the same recommendation about deck stains as we can't guarantee that one manufacturer's stain won't be affected by a product already on your deck.
- Keep cleaning products in their original containers so you can always read the instructions before using. You may also need to refer to the ingredients if someone is affected by the product.
- Avoid breathing the fumes from cleaning products by opening windows for ventilation. Avoid eye and skin contact by using protective gloves and clothing.
- Be extra careful using cleaning products when pregnant and/or around small children as most testing has not addressed these populations.
- DO NOT buy cleaning products in large quantities. Buy just enough for a specific job and dispose of quickly. Wrap containers securely in newspaper and follow the recommendations of your local waste management company when getting rid of unused products. For example, left over paint can be hardened (required in some communities) before disposal to avoid leaks into the ground.
Finding the Ingredients for Today's Cleaning Product Labels
Most household cleaners and polishes cause little damage to the environment if used up according to label directions. However, some product uses and disposal of unwanted products merit particular attention!
In January 2011, manufacturers begin a voluntary program to list cleaning product ingredients online. That's one small step in the right direction but:
- Will all ingredients be included, i.e. the video indicates they won't be including fragrances?
- Will the average consumer understand the ingredients, or potential risks?
- How will we access this information where we make our buy decisions … at the store?
This video from WBZTV is an eye opener. It offers insight into the problem, hilighting increasing cases of child asthma. Is it just coincidence that the same day I found this video, a similar report talking about equally disturbing statistics showing sharp increases in autism around the world.
Visit WBZTV's web site for more information, Can Household Cleaner's be Making You Sick?