Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Green Cleaning Spruces Up Environment

    Consumers Sway Toward Cleaning Products That Don't Adversely Affect the Environment

    Green Cleaning: What to Avoid

    Annie B. Bond, author of Clean & Green and Home Enlightenment: Practical, Earth-Friendly Advice for Creating a Nurturing, Healthy and Toxin-Free Home and Lifestyle, recommends paying special attention to what she calls "signal words" on labels, which are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and must be placed on hazardous products. The most dangerous ones, she says, are:

    Poison/Danger: which means the product is extremely toxic; a few drops can kill you.

    Warning: means the product is moderately toxic; as little as a teaspoonful can kill.

    Caution: refers to a less-toxic product; 2 tablespoons to a cup can kill you.

    Other words that often signal danger are "Strong Sensitizer," "Toxic," "Carcinogen," Flammable," and "Corrosive." Bond recommends that we avoid all products containing these warning labels.

    In addition to hazardous products, Weissman recommends that consumers also avoid those with any significant amount of phosphates (more than 0.5%); high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to outdoor pollution and may also have negative effects on health; and those containing ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, or "EDTA," which is not biodegradable.

    Other potentially harmful yet commonly used ingredients (often in all-purpose cleaners) include:

    Alkylphenolethoxylates (APEs): often found in surfactants, which Weissman calls "the workhorses" of cleaning chemicals. APEs tend to either be endocrine disruptors or break down into endocrine disruptors, he explains, which adversely affect the human endocrine system.

    Certain glycol ethers, like 2-Butoxyethanol (or "Butyl"): typically found in household cleaners and "degreasers," they are a lung irritant.

    Heavy metals (chromium, selenium, lead, mercury): often used to add color to cleaning products.

    Ammonia : a respiratory irritant found in many cleaning products

    Ethanolamines: another respiratory irritant common to all-purpose cleaners

    Chlorine: mostly found in bleach, can be irritating to the lungs and eyes.

    Rathey says we should also be wary of anything with a strong fragrance, which usually means it contains potentially hazardous petrochemical ingredients. It's also a good idea to clean when no one else is around -- especially children. And no matter what products we use, proper ventilation is crucial.

    "Run the exhaust fan in the bathroom and kitchen, or open a window. Create an air flow," he says. "You consume daily about 4 pounds of liquid and 2 pounds of food, but about 30 pounds of air. It's the No. 1 route of exposure to contamination. What you're not breathing can't hurt you."

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    acupuncture needle on shoulder
    10 tips to look and feel good.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    pacemaker next to xray
    Treatment options.
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.