Grab a bottle of one of your home cleaners. Notice anything missing?
Hint: How do you know what's in the stuff?
In Canada, cosmetics and food are the only consumer products that require ingredient lists. Manufacturers of home cleaning products are not legally required to disclose all ingredients (and hazards)!
So why should we ask manufacturers to fully disclose?
For answers, I quizzed Alicia Sokolowski, the founder of Vancouver's AspenClean. (When she couldn't find a cleaning company that was safe and environmentally responsible, she took DIY to a new level!)
Are conventional cleaners harmful to our health?
Yes! Cleaning products aren't required to disclose ingredients. Phthalates, chlorine bleach, ammonia, sodium laureth sulphate, ethoxylated alcohols and fragrance are all commonly found in household cleaners and linked to a range of health issues including asthma, cancer, allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities. Repeated exposure to small amounts of these chemicals can cause long-term health problems. Kids are especially vulnerable.
Aspen Clean employees say they feel better cleaning with the green alternatives. One of our first employees had worked in the cleaning industry for years. She had asthma and was using her inhaler daily. After a few weeks of working for us she reduced her inhaler use to less than once a month.
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Why do so many brands use toxic ingredients?
It's cheaper and therefore more profitable. And there is no law that requires companies to submit their products for safety testing or federal approval. Combined with a lack of awareness on the consumer's part due to insufficient labeling laws and the advertising power of major brands, consumers are at a disadvantage.
How do green cleaning products differ from many conventional brands?
Truly green products contain no ingredients that could be harmful to your health or the environment. They're readily biodegradable—in less than 28 days—and contain no phosphates or phthalates. And, they use plant-based, not petroleum-based ingredients.
How can people choose safer home cleaners?
Choose products that voluntarily disclose all of their ingredients on the label and carry an eco-label. AspenClean products have the Ecocert seal of approval. It's the most widely used European organization certifying safe cosmetics and "green" cleaning products.
Will you switch to cleaners that list their ingredients?
Comment on this blog for a chance to win a Whole House Cleaning Kit from Aspen Clean! (Draw date May 7, 2012)
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green