The Maids of Portland, Maine

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring Green Cleaning for Allergy Suffers

The passage of winter leaves behind a high concentration of allergens in the home. Months of people and pets spending more time indoors, combined with the lack of circulation of fresh air, creates particularly poor indoor air quality. Now is the perfect time to engage in some appropriately timed spring cleaning in order to eliminate accumulated allergens. The deep cleaning that occurs with spring cleaning is important in maintaining an allergy-free home. However, cleaning products themselves are often culprits of damaging indoor air quality. As Jeanne McLughlin, a certified building biologist states, "The cleaner your home is, the more toxic it can be."

Traditional cleaners may work quickly and effectively against household dirt and grime. But many of the chemicals in these cleaners are toxic. Their fumes and residues actually pollute the air in your home, exacerbating allergies, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), not to mention the poisoning hazard they pose to children and pets. Adverse reactions to chemicals in cleaning products vary. Exposure to common household cleaning chemicals can cause acute reactions like itchy and watery eyes or irritation to the nose, throat, and lungs when chemical fumes are inhaled. Coming into contact with the chemicals can cause skin irritation and burning. Needless to say, these possible reactions are of especial concern for those with allergies, asthma, and eczema.

So what's in typical household cleaning products that's so bad? Following is a summary of many of the toxic ingredients commonly found in household cleaners:
~Ammonia produces fumes that are highly irritating to the lungs, throat, eyes, and nose. It should not be used by people with asthma or other lung problems. Ammonia is commonly found in glass cleaners, but is also a base ingredient of many other cleaners such as metal polishes. Ammonia SHOULD NEVER be mixed with chlorine; the mixture produces a deadly gas called chloramine.
~Phosphates are mineral additives that soften the water. When phosphates enter the water supply, they create an overabundance of algae, which depletes the water's oxygen supply to the point that fish and other organisms die off. Phosphates are still present in many automatic dishwasher detergents.
~Petroleum-based chemicals are also widely present in cleaning products. Petroleum is readily absorbed into the skin and is a nerve-damaging chemical. Petroleum distillates are found in furniture polish, metal polish, and other cleaning products. Dish soaps are also often petroleum-based.
~Sudsing agents like diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) can react with nitrites (often used as a preservative) to produce nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic and can easily penetrate the skin, causing our bodies to absorb the toxins.
Sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, is extremely caustic, and also produces harmful fumes. Bleach is found in many cleaning products, including all-purpose cleaners, mold and mildew cleaners, and cream or powder scrubbing cleaners, not to mention laundering products.
~Sulfates, found in toilet bowl cleaners, are known to trigger asthma attacks.
Aerosol sprays produce tiny droplets that are easily inhaled into the lungs and absorbed through the skin. Propellants found in aerosol sprays are flammable, and fragrances, as discussed below, are also toxic.
~Fragrances made from synthetic chemicals are present not only in personal and beauty products, but also in cleaners, laundry products, and air fresheners. As many asthma and allergy sufferers know first-hand, synthetic fragrances can cause allergy and asthma attacks. In addition, the chemicals in fragrances are inhaled and absorbed into the skin and accumulate in the body over time.
~Formaldehyde, in addition to being present in varnishes, particle board furniture, and adhesives, is also found in some furniture polishes. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.
~ Chlorine can be found in many dish soaps. Dishwashers can release these chemicals into the air in the form of steam when the dishwasher is opened at the end of its cycle, causing it to be easily inhaled. Chlorine fumes in general are also harmful.

Cleaning your home with green cleaning products does double-duty in protecting you from allergies, asthma attacks, and MCS. While eliminating allergens and creating a clean home environment, green cleaning products also make sure that your home's indoor air quality remains pure. Spring cleaning with green cleaning choices is a great way to get a jumpstart on maintaining the freshest, cleanest, and safest allergy-free home.

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