Saturday, January 20, 2007

Toxins at home

You know that wheezy feeling you get when you inhale the fumes from your tile cleaner? Or that little headache that comes if you spend too much time with household cleaners? Or how about that greasy feeling on your fingertips that won't wash off after you use all purpose cleaner? I'm finding out that all of those things are caused by the chemicals in the products. And those chemicals don't just give you a minor headache or mildly irritate your lungs or skin. They actually have the potential to cause serious damage over time.

Things like phosphorous, phthalates and parabens that are added to all sorts of things (including shampoos and moisturizing lotions!), ammonia, and bleach all have ties to serious health problems. They're suspected to have ties to different types of cancers and tumors, respiratory problems, reproductive health, kidney function... the list goes on. And look at what you have under your kitchen sink. Most likely, none of the ingredients are listed. In fact, even if you go to the trouble of getting the MSDS the complete set of ingredients won't be listed there either! Household cleaners are not required to list ingredients. There are some words that can alert us to the severity of the threat though:
  • Caution: An ounce to a pint may be fatal if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin by an adult.
  • Warning: A teaspoonful may be fatal if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin by an adult.
  • Danger: A taste to 1 teaspoonful may be fatal if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin by an adult.
What does that mean for our kids? I've just gone through my house and made sure that I don't have anything that says "warning" or "danger". Eek. And what's surprising is that the worry isn't just about swallowing - a lot of the toxins I named above can be inhaled (at which point they stay in your body) or absorbed through the skin. I always wondered after I cleaned a surface how long the residue would stay there, and how harmful it could be to my kids.

I think the answer is to not risk it. There are enough natural cleaning agents out there that I don't need to expose my family to increased risk. Another surprising statistic (from the EPA): Indoor air is 2-5 times more toxic that outdoor air. I don't know about you, but I was always more concerned with the quality of air outside, worried about pollution and smog. But the air inside is more toxic! (Do you think maybe this is part of the explanation to why newborns get so cranky after being at home all day? Both my kids did it every afternoon around 4-ish, and they were both calmed down by going outside.) Anyhow, we have an immediate impact on the air quality in our homes, and we want, we can change it! The outdoor air depends on many more factors, but why not start with our own homes?

1 comment:

Rodney Olsen said...

If my home is really that dangerous I guess I'm going to have to move out. Although I'm not quite sure where I should go. :)