When you clean your home, are you leaving toxic chemicals behind? Are the “fresh scents” and shiny surfaces releasing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air that are then breathed in by your family? Are there other health risks to using traditional cleaning products in your home? There may be a better, safer way to clean. According to our expert, it is possible to have a clean home without putting your health at risk.
Damian Pike, the founder and CEO of Zabada, a maker of chemical-free cleaning products, knows all about the importance of using responsible toxic free cleaners. “Women with young families are the highest users of cleaning products in the U.S,” he says. This may be especially troubling, as children, due to their smaller size and ongoing development, are generally understood to be more vulnerable than adults to the effects of toxins in the environment.
Just having these cleaning products, these chemicals, in the home can be dangerous, even when they aren’t being actively used. According to U.S. Poison Control Centers, there were more than 200,000 reported incidents of toxic exposure from household cleaners in the year 2,000, with the majority of these calls involving children younger than the age of six. All it may take is a curious child and an available bottle or bucket to lead to injury or tragedy.
Assuming that families of young children understand the dangers of unattended household cleaners, and are therefore taking secure measures to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure, the active, normal, daily or weekly use of these cleaners can still cause harm to a family’s health, both in the short term and in the long-term.
“If you cannot understand the concerns of an ingredient which has a caution behind it, then it should not be used in your home,” Pike says. “The worst household chemical to my mind is Triclosan, found in surface cleaners, soaps and toothpastes. This is a persistent environmental pollutant, as it accumulates and does not break down.”
Those homeowners who have taken the approach of getting back to basics, using the classic cleaners that their parent’s used may not be protecting themselves any better than those who use the newest chemical cleaning formulas.
“Hypochlorite solutions, in other terms known as bleach, is a well-known skin and airway irritant and is accounted for more than 37 percent of childhood injury from cleaning product exposure,” Pike says. “Another harmful household chemical would be Ammonia, which is found in disinfects used to clean hard surfaces, and in particular floor and bathroom cleaners. Too much exposure of Ammonia has been known to create acute symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and skin irritation.”
Surprisingly, it isn’t always the disinfectants and the detergents that are dangerous to families. A large majority of the toxins seem to come from the addition of fragrances to cleaning products, including those used in laundry detergents, as well as in general household cleaners. Close to one-third of the substances used to produce fragrances in consumer products may be toxic, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Chemical formulas of fragrance are not required to be listed on any product labels. They are considered trade secrets. “Some consumers believe that the ‘lemony’ scent is the smell of clean, but in fact it is the smell of chemicals and VOCs in the air,” Pike says. “It is also important to understand that an eco-friendly clean is one in which you cannot smell a scent afterward.”
Finally, an additional concern of having these products in your home focuses on chemical disinfectants. Collaborative research shows that germs can become resistant to chemical disinfectants and therefore more vigorous and harder to kill.
Today, there are a number of options for chemical free and eco-friendly cleaning products. Pike does warn that not all products labeled as “Green” are healthy for families or the environment. “There are thousands of chemicals that have not been regulated by Government bodies, and thus can still be harmful to a consumer’s health. Some “green” cleaners have also been known to react with other chemicals in your home and create harmful secondary pollutants.”
Alternative options, such as steam mops, and microfiber cloths have been increasingly popular.
Pike’s company, Zabada, focuses on providing microfiber products that use water only to remove dust, grime and even bacteria. “It is important to use premium products when cleaning, to remove bacteria and clean the surface effectively. Traditional sponges and rags are filled with bacteria, and if not replaced regularly they can be quite the germ spreaders! Microfiber uses unique sharp edge and fine fibers against surface debris to effectively trap the bacteria amongst the fibers and shave off contaminants. The bacteria, dirt, grease and oils will not release onto another surface until the microfiber is washed.”
He doesn’t know why anyone wouldn’t switch to chemical-free cleaning, when there are products out there to do the job and suggests that homeowners new to the idea start by converting their cleaning one room at a time. “The best question to ask yourself is, ‘What is your biggest cleaning challenge?’ Is it the bathroom? Or perhaps it is the floors?”
Whichever room, homeowners should keep in mind that not all microfiber products work well for all surfaces. “Microfiber is made up of different weaves, fiber thickness and quantity to cater to different areas of your home and to maximize efficiency and efficacy,” Pike says. “A nifty microfiber mitt [for example] can remove chemical build up by 90 percent and bacteria by 99.9 percent, which is more effective than a chemical clean.”
For more information about Zabada products, please visit www.zabadaclean.com.