We all use cleaning products in our home to keep it clean and sanitized. From the bathroom to the kitchen, the windows to the floor- almost every object in the house is being cleaned by market bought cleaners. These cleaners give out a pleasant smell and effectively get rid of all grime and dust that many have accumulated in the house. After a good cleaning session your house looks spick and span and you heave a sigh of satisfaction.
But without your knowledge, you are exposing your family as well as yourself to dangerous and toxic fumes that can affect your health very badly. Swallowing, touching or even breathing in the fumes of cleaning products can bring about serious and sometimes irreversible health hazards. Especially, infants and children below the age of six are more susceptible to such danger.
The cleaner bottles apparently look harmless to you but have you looked at its contents closely? Having a closer look at its ingredients would give you a better idea as to how much chemicals are packed in these bottles. In fact you may not be familiar with most of the chemicals that these cleaners contain. Sometimes the companies are clever enough not to include the whole list- in place of some toxic substances that are used to give the peasant aroma to these products, the company just puts them under the head ‘fragrances’ without elaborating anything. Doing a quick search on the internet or looking up in a book would give you a better understanding to all the chemicals listed in the products.
Some common harmful substances that can be seen in these cleaners are ammonia, chlorine nitrogen and phosphorous. Corrosive bleaching agents, oven cleaners, toilet sanitizers, drain cleaners are used quite frequently in homes. Indoor and outdoor pollution is one adverse effect of using these cleaners. The VOC or volatile organic compounds affect the air quality, adding to the smog layer in the atmosphere. The results are sometimes short term but often long term. The short term results include irritation in the eye, breathing problems, chest infection, skin irritation, chemical burns, rashes, sneezing and headaches. The potent long term effects may be cancer, low sperm count, asthma, damage to the brain and central nervous system. The toxic chlorine gas which forms when chlorine mixes with acid can be detrimental to our health. Carcinogenic and neurotoxic products like triethanolamine and diethanolamine are pretty common in cleaning products. Some countries have even banned the use of these substances in the making of cleaners.
The irreparable damage brought upon the environment due to the use of cleaning products also cannot be ignored. The cleaners are often washed off with water. They travel through the drain and after being treated are dumped in the ocean. Now there are some chemical residues that remain in the water even after being treated, like the surfactant alkyl phenol ethoxylates or APEs. They are known to disrupt the reproduction of certain marine species. The nitrogen and ammonia also bring adverse effects to ocean animals. Some petroleum based cleaning products deplete the natural resources of the earth. Furthermore, the bottles or plastic containers that these cleaners come in should not be overlooked. They end up in landfills and being non-biodegradable, pollute the environment largely.
What then is to be done? Keeping our homes clean is not a luxury- it is a necessity. So the only solution for consumers is to buy and use cleaning agents with precaution. The next time you buy these cleaners, look at its active ingredients and study them carefully. Stay away from any cleaning product that has the words ‘danger’ or ‘poison’ written on it.
Study beforehand so that you have an idea of the toxic ingredients to avoid. Purchase cleaners that are low VOC and avoid petroleum based products. The best thing would be to buy natural products made from chemical-free substances. You can even make your own cleaning products at home. Lemons, vinegar, baking soda, pine oil are some non toxic substances that you can use to clean your homes. If you don’t have the time to make homemade cleaning solutions, buy the natural cleaners from markets. Many companies are manufacturing cleaning products that promise to be 100% natural. Also, beware of the packaging. Only buy products that come in recyclable boxes. Buying in bulk would be a good idea. This way you are reducing the use of plastic containers as much as possible.
Remember, the next time you use the chemical cleaners at home, be very cautious while handling them. Wear gloves at all times and cover your mouth with a mask to prevent the fumes from entering your body. If you have children at home, be very careful where you keep the products. Store them in places that are out of reach of children. If you follow these necessary precautions, you can save yourself somewhat from the harmful effects of household cleaners. These cleaners may look innocent but they are actually deadly. If the health of your family is in question, you have to be very careful what you use. Buy smart and stay safe.