There are more than 85,000 chemicals registered for use, with thousands more hitting the market every year. Currently, there are approximately 2,800 high-production-volume (HPV) chemicals produced in the United States in quantities equal to or exceeding 1 million pounds. They are used extensively in our homes, schools, and communities, but less than one-third of these chemicals have publicly available safety data, and less than two percent have been assessed for their effects on children’s health and development. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which passed in 1976 and was updated in 2016, is the primary law that regulates chemicals. It is meant to empower the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that chemicals are safe. However, the EPA has not reviewed the majority of industrial chemicals for human-health impacts. Over the 30 years since TSCA was enacted, the EPA has succeeded in compelling hazard testing for only about 200 of the tens of thousands of chemicals in U.S. commerce. The newly reformed TSCA allows the EPA to evaluate more chemicals for safety.
Just because the label says “Natural”, “Non-Toxic” or even “Eco-Friendly” doesn’t mean that it is. It can be a good place to start when you’re looking for products, but verify it! Look at the ingredients and judge for yourself. If you aren’t sure how your favorite cleaners measure up, look them up on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners where they rate products by their health safety.
Though there are more toxins out there, this is a great place to start on what to avoid:
▪ Ammonia: Toxic when inhaled, swallowed or touched. I remember my Mom using this stuff as a kid and man, it is seriously strong stuff, not to mention potentially deadly when mixed with the wrong stuff.
▪ Antibacterial & Disinfectants: These include a whole list of ingredients ranging from Bleach to Triclosan. The overuse of these types of products are blamed for antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the truth is that extreme disinfectants are rarely needed. There are natural options, just read the labels!
▪ Butyl Glycol, Ethylene Glycol, Monobutyl: This is common in most general cleaners and is dangerous to the nervous system, liver & kidneys.
▪ Chlorine Bleach: Bleach is very obviously strong, corrosive and irritating to both the eyes and lungs. Avoid this stuff when at all possible – plus you’ll probably save some cash by not accidentally getting bleach spots on clothes and other household fabrics.
▪ Petroleum Solvents: Many ingredients are derived from petroleum and are commonly found in many cleaning products as surfactants (watch for this term on ingredient lists). Other derivatives, including formaldehyde, can be found in a variety of household cleaners.
▪ Phosphates: These are harmful to aquatic life and are often found in laundry & dish detergents.
▪ Phthalates: Watch for fragrance on ingredient lists. These hormone disruptive are often components of complex synthetic fragrances. Avoid artificial scents at all costs. They are toxic and this goes for everything from cleaners to shampoo to candles. Choose options that say “Phthalate Free” or mention the use of essential oils for fragrance.
I our household we have ditched and switched to chemical-free cleaning that is faster, safer, and cleaner!