Survival Update

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Could Your Clean House be Killing You?

Everybody likes a clean house. Those gleaming surfaces and the country fresh fragrance just make a person happy. But would you be so happy if you knew those clean surfaces could be causing serious damage to your health?

Traditional household cleaners are full of chemicals that can cause migraines, asthma attacks, and even cancer. More alarming is the fact that the average American household contains about 62 toxic chemicals. European studies have found that heavy use of traditional cleaning products by those in custodial or janitorial jobs results in lung damage equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years.

While most of us will not have the same level of exposure to chemicals as custodians or janitors, we still should be aware of the dangers to those of us who clean our own homes regularly. Some of the worst culprits are added fragrances, any aerosol sprays, fabric and oven cleaners, and products labelled as “antibacterial.” These products often contain neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and ingredients which irritate and can cause permanent damage to mucus membranes in the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs.

There are no safety standards for the ingredients in our cleaning products, so it is up to us as consumers to be more conscious of the products we purchase. If you would like to reduce your exposure to these toxins, look at the ingredients in your cleaning products. The fewer ingredients listed, the better. Look for plant-derived products. If the list of warnings is long, beware! Almost any product that has “added fragrances” should be avoided. If the product burns your eyes or skin or makes you cough, maybe it should not be in your cupboard.

There are some very effective, and inexpensive, products that can be used for cleaning our homes. White vinegar and baking soda can work wonders on sinks and tubs. Purchase a couple of spray bottles and mix your own cleaning products. The internet is a wonderful source for recipes to create these mixtures, and you’ll be saving your money as well as your health.

If you are one of the many Americans that love to add fragrances to your home, you may want to invest in an essential oil diffuser and some of the wonderful essential oils available. While these may seem a little pricier than a can of Febreeze, remember that only a couple of drops are needed to add a fresh, clean, and healthy scent to your home. Even setting a pot of water on your stove and simmering some herbs or lemon slices can have a pleasant effect.

While we are on the topic of pleasant scents and essential oils, are you a big fan of scented dryer sheets? Dryer sheets (as well as liquid laundry softener) may contain benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders), limonene (a proven carcinogen), and chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen) among other nasty chemicals. If you really love the softness and scent that the dryer sheets give your laundry, purchase a few wool dryer balls and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. The dryer balls last forever and leave your clothes soft. You save money as well as your health.

One final suggestion to help alleviate some of the problems that can occur due to the use of cleaning chemicals: whenever possible, open your windows while cleaning. It adds some fresh air to your home and rids it of some of those toxins that could be building up.