Cleaning products are all around us. At home, work and all the places you visit. You give consideration to the products that you put on your skin. But, what about the cleaning products that are all around us on surfaces and in the air? Does green cleaning make a difference to your health?
Cleaning products can contain irritant chemicals which can cause human health issues. Furthermore their chemicals can end up washed away affecting plants and wildlife.
Read on to learn what green cleaning means. How conventional products can be harmful to your health, and how to evaluate which products are really eco friendly.
What does green cleaning mean?
Green cleaning means being more selective in your choice of cleaning products. Seeking out products which contain less toxic chemicals and that are kinder to people, and the planet.
But, how can you tell which cleaning products contain less chemicals?
This can sometimes be difficult. There is a lot of greenwashing in the industry. Products marked as eco friendly and natural are not necessarily as eco friendly as their name suggests. To properly evaluate chemicals and their toxicity is hard for someone not specialised in the area. And even harder when not all ingredients are listed.
The solution is to look for 3rd party independent certifications. Some of the most well known are listed below.
GreenSeal is a global non profit organisation. For more than 30 years Green Seal has been setting rigorous standards for health and environment.
Ecologo Part of Underwritters Laboratories (UL). They are a global safety science leader and signatory to the United Nations Global Compact.
Saferchoice The Environmental Protection Agency’s label for safer based chemical products.
USDA certified bio based product Certified products will have a USDA verified amount of renewable biological ingredients. Biobased products replace the use of over 300 million gallons of petroleum per year in the US.
Why are cleaning products harmful to people and the environment?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) did an investigation into over 2000 cleaning products. They found many ingredients that can cause health concerns. Their report concluded that:
- Frequent inhalation of fumes from various products on the market could cause asthma or other respiratory problems.
- Children of women who clean have a high risk of birth defects.
- Some cleaning products can cause irritation, burns or poisoning.
- Products could contain preservatives that release low levels of formaldehyde.
- Ingredients can be laced with carcinogenic impurity 1,4-dioxane.
How much thought have you given to the cleaning products used at home and other places like offices and social areas? Is something as simple as changing your cleaning products going to improve your health? Potentially, Yes!
The European Community Respiratory Health Survey looked at lung function in over 6000 participants. It concluded that cleaning activities in women may constitute a risk to respiratory health and increase lung function decline.
In a separate study the University of Bergen concluded that “people who have worked as cleaners or done household cleaning for 20 years have reduced lung function. Equal to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for the same period of time.”
How do cleaning products affect the environment? They are generally washed away down drains. Some contaminants are removed at water treatment facilities, however, not all. Contaminants can find their way back into rivers and lakes. They build up over years and can have a negative impact on wildlife.
Is green cleaning more expensive?
You might be surprised to find out that green cleaning products are generally not more expensive. Convenience products such as ready to use and aerosols were the most expensive.
Research Gate conducted a study to evaluate the cost.
They “surveyed the prices of 373 cleaning products from 26 manufacturers across 8 product categories. The prices of green products were not significantly different from those of equivalent conventional products.”
Benefits of green cleaning
There are so many benefits to green cleaning. You will be healthier, the environment will be less polluted and it will not cost you more. You should look for products that are certified. This will ensure you are getting products that are less toxic. But less toxic does not necessarily mean 100% safe so please ensure you take precautions when storing and using products.
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