Spring cleaning for a green and non-toxic home

Eco-friendly cleaners may not have a proven health impact, but this writer is sold

Persistent hives a couple of years ago led me along a winding path filled with doctor’s appointments and medications that knocked me off my feet, but the hives remained. Desperate to be medication- free, I looked at alternative remedies, including the elimination of toxic cleaning supplies.

After just one hour of research, I was shocked by the information I found

A study, “Cleaners and Toxins” by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society in Vancouver claims that toxic chemicals found in cleaning products and disinfectants have been linked to headaches, asthma, organ damage and a weakening of the body’s immune system.

The World Health Organization estimates 80 per cent of cancers are environmentally related.

Phenol, a common chemical that can cause skin irritations, is found in many home-detergents, all-purpose cleaners and even anti- itch lotions.

Labels on cleaning products tell almost nothing about ingredients.

Eager for a medical perspective, I spoke to Dr. Susan Wasserman, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and a faculty member at McMaster University .

“I treat people all the time who have (had) hives for years,” she told me. “Twenty-five per cent of people in Canada have experienced acute urticaria. It’s frustrating because you think there must be something causing hives and we can’t prove what it is. Medical doctors don’t even receive training in conventional allergies, which is the most under-taught subject in medicine.”

When I asked her about the possibility of moving to chemical- free cleaning supplies to eliminate my hives, Wasserman was unable to give a definitive answer. “It’s worth a try. It’s a poorly understood subject,” she said.

Armed with this information, I got rid of my traditional cleaners and turned to non-toxic, biodegradable products with no chlorine, no petroleum, and no ammonia.

Now I use products from Seventh Generation, which are free of added fragrances and are hypoallergenic. I love the bathroom cleaner, which not only does a great job, it also lists every ingredient.

I also learned from the website – www.seventhgen.com – that petroleum, found in many traditional cleaners, pollutes the environment when we drill for it, when we transport it and when we refine it. So every time we use a petrochemical cleaning product, we’re contributing to this pollution.

In addition, optical brighteners (found in most regular laundry detergents) are fluorescent chemicals that convert ultraviolet light to blue-white light that makes whites appear brighter. But these are not biodegradable and are often toxic to aquatic wildlife.

Nature Clean also makes great natural cleaning products such as dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder. And Biovert makes an excellent concentrated cleaner that works on hardwood, tile, sinks, windows and cars.

I’m not sure if my decision to “clean green” did the trick, or if the hives would have disappeared on their own. I may never know, but I do know that I love these natural cleaners and enjoy the fresh, unscented smell of my home.

About Shelly Sanders

Shelly (represented by Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency) is the author of THE RACHEL TRILOGY--Rachel's Secret, Rachel's Promise & Rachel's Hope (Second Story Press).Rachel's Secret received a Starred Review in Booklist and was named a Notable Read from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Rachel's Hope was shortlisted for the Vine Awards for Canadian Literature in 2016. Before turning to fiction, Shelly was a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean's, and Canadian Living.
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