The case for natural products in your home

Presently, there are no federal regulations governing the ingredients that can be included in the cleaning products in your home.  In fact, there is no regulation even requiring the companies to list the ingredients on their label.  In essence, all of the work of investigating ingredients and their safety is left to the consumer.  Unbelievably, the same is true for “natural” products.  There is no agreed upon definition of natural ingredients and no requirements to disclose all ingredients.

Cleaning products touch every surface in your home.  Floors, carpet, furniture, windows, TVs, cooking utensils, appliances, clothing and bed linen are all cleaned using cleaning products.  The ingredients in these products become significantly concentrated in the home over time.  Unless you have chosen your cleaning products carefully, the concentrated chemicals are predominantly synthetic.  Air quality tests have shown that indoor air can be as much as 500 times more contaminated than outside air. 

Aerosolized sprays are the worst culprits as they are used in confined spaces (rooms) and are readily inhaled into the lungs.  A study by Øisten Svanes from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen demonstrated that people who had worked as household cleaners for 20 years had reduced lung function equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for the same period of time.          

A 2009 study led by Jonathan Bernstein, a physician and leading asthma and allergy researcher at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, measured worsening symptoms in asthmatic women after they had completed housecleaning tasks (Bernstein 2009).

A growing body of evidence suggests that using cleaning products can also cause asthma to develop in healthy people. A 10-country study of more than 3,500 individuals who were initially free of asthma found that nine years later, those who used spray cleaners at least once a week to clean their homes had a 30-to-50 percent increased risk of developing asthma during the study period (Zock 2007). This association was linked primarily to commonly used spray products such as air fresheners, glass cleaners and furniture cleaning sprays. The risk increased the more often people used sprays or the greater the number of different sprays used.

Many of the ingredients found in conventional/synthetic cleaning products are inflammatory,  irritants to the respiratory tract and carcinogenic.  Air samples after cleaning product use have detected formaldehyde, methyl methacrylate, styrene, benzalkonium chloride, bleach and ammonia.  Airborne reactions involving volatile organic compounds can produce ozone, a powerful lung irritant.  Pine- and citrus-based cleaners contain a class of volatile chemicals known as terpenes, which indirectly increase asthma risks. Terpenes react with ozone to form formaldehyde, an asthmagen and known human carcinogen.  Cleaning ingredients have also been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, learning disabilities and developmental problems.  More than 3000 chemicals can legally be added to your cleaning product under the generic name “Parfum”.

It is curious that the increase in the use of synthetics in household cleaning products mirrors the increase in asthma, ADD, ADHD, Autism, PDD NOS, cancer, allergies etc.  While we make no claims that there is absolute cause and effect, we are pleased to play a role in offering alternatives to these toxin-containing cleaning products.  With advances in the production of natural surfactants and soaps, there is no sacrifice in cleaning efficacy or affordability.  The question is, why wouldn’t you make the switch for your family.