Is it REALLY necessary to use a natural dishwasher detergent? This is a question we get a lot during our natural babyproofing workshops, and the short answer is: yes.
Parents can't help but experience an overwhelming sense of helplessness when searching for safer options in a store full of unlabeled products. Current regulation doesn’t provide an effective way to manage the 2,000 new chemicals brought to market each year. Our biggest hope for the near future is truth in labeling so Americans can make truly informed decisions.
We've been hearing from busy parents who just don't know where to start, so here are a few simple things you can change right away to create a healthy home for your family.
Avoid Products with “Fragrance” Listed on the Label
The problem: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. And here's the kicker: manufacturers can legally hide over 3,000 chemicals under “fragrance.” A new report from Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) found that millions of people suffer from skin and respiratory allergies caused by hidden chemicals in fragrance. These unknown chemicals are commonly found in skincare, cleaning products, and air fresheners.
Skip Dryer Sheets, Even the Fragrance-free Sheets
The problem: Conventional dryer sheets often contain quaternary ammonium compounds, which are known to cause asthma, along with 1,4 dioxane which is known to cause cancer. Unscented products can still be made with fragrances added to mask the natural odor of other ingredients, instead of giving off a detectable scent.
Choose Safer Skin Care, Certified Organic When Possible
The problem: Our bathrooms are a literal minefield of toxic chemicals. Doctors have been prescribing medication to be administered through the skin for years, so we know that our bodies can absolutely absorb what it comes in contact with. The problem is that our outdated federal law allows cancer-causing chemicals in baby shampoo and lead in lipstick. That means it's up to us to find safer products to protect our children, but this is no easy task when there are so many “natural” and “organic” claims that are less than truthful.
The solution: We recommend choosing certified organic skincare when possible and products made by trustworthy companies who use safe ingredients and actually list them on the label voluntarily. Earth Mama Organics is an all-time favorite organic skin care line of ours.
NOTE: In India, Johnson & Johnson's license was suspended due to unacceptable levels of carcinogens still found in their products. As more cases like this unfold around the world, it becomes ever more important to safeguard our children.
FDA joint commissioner Kamlesh B Shende said, “There were unacceptable levels of ethylene oxide, which is a trigger for cancer. Ethylene oxide was being used to bring down microbial load in the powder by sterilisation. But it was found that there was ethylene oxide residue in the talcum powder, which is primarily used on infants. In light of this, we have suspended the licence.”
Ditch Poisonous Cleaning Products
The problem: Cleaning products are among the most toxic products found in the home, consistently remaining in the top five causes of poisoning in children and contributing to indoor air pollution. For example, The Environmental Working Group found that Comet contains over 100 undisclosed chemicals. In fact, most powdered scrubbing cleaners contain many toxic ingredients including formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform that can cause cancer, asthma and reproductive disorders.
P.S. Once you've conquered this list of priority changes, you can take the next step on your journey to a healthy home with our Getting Started Guide.
When our household budget began to feel the squeeze, I wasn't exactly looking for the silver lining. But what felt like a loss at first, ended up being a blessing in disguise. Who knew that actively looking for ways to save money could end up delivering an even better benefit by reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals in every day products?
Here are a few of my favorite ways to trim the budget while living a more natural lifestyle:
- Buy in bulk: Fresh or frozen organic foods without the chemical-laden packaging usually costs about the same as pre-packaged, convenience foods. During Earth Month, Mindful Momma and the Bulk is Green Council (BIG) are challenging to you to take the pledge to Love Bulk Foods. I save an average of 30-40% on organic gluten-free flours when buying in bulk at Whole Foods.
- Ditch disposables: Bottled water, polystyrene cutlery, and styrofoam food containers are more expensive in the long run and leach toxic chemicals more readily. You can find all kinds of non-toxic food storage containers in our shopping guide.
- Skip over-priced skincare claiming to be organic without the proof of certification: Let the DIY ninja inside you take over with simple homemade recipes from your kitchen instead! Did you know that baking soda makes a great exfoliation and coconut oil works wonders on scars?
- Make your own green cleaners by substituting natural ingredients in place of hazardous ones: Vinegar is one of my all-around staples for cleaning along with castile soap and hydrogen peroxide. Learn more about which cleaners you should switch out first in our green cleaning guide.
- Reuse and repurpose glass jars and non-toxic plastic containers for organizing household items, storing DIY cleaning recipes, taking home left overs and decorating your home.
Guest Post by Cassidy Randall, Women’s Voices for the Earth
Have you ever wondered why, when you look at the back of your favorite laundry detergent or all-purpose cleaner, you only find a few ingredients on the label? That’s because cleaning product companies are legally allowed to keep chemicals a secret from you, even the toxic ones—and they do.
At Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), we believe you have a right to know what chemicals you’re being exposed to when you clean your home, which is why we tested 20 top brand-name cleaners for undercover ingredients. Guess what? We found secret toxic chemicals in every product we tested.
Here’s the dirt:
- Tide Free & Gentle® and Bounce Free & Sensitive® contained 1,4-dioxane, a known cancer-causing chemical. These products are marketed to moms for their infants’ laundry!
- Simple Green Naturals® also contained 1,4-dioxane as well as phthalates, linked to reproductive harm. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner® contained toluene, linked to pregnancy complications. Simple Green advertises their products as “non-toxic,” by the way.
- Glade Tough Odor Solutions® contained phthalates, even though the company said they removed them a couple years ago, and galaxolide, linked to hormone disruption.
- Clorox Clean-Up® contained chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, both linked to cancer. Clorox advertises that you should use this cleaner on multiple surfaces throughout the day – so you can get an even bigger dose of these chemicals!
- High levels of allergens appeared in fragranced air fresheners, but there were no warning labels. Allergens were also found in products marketed as “fragrance-free.”
- None of these chemicals are listed on the product’s label, so you have no way of knowing they’re in there, let alone avoiding them.
You’ll be shocked at what else we found. Read the report Dirty Secrets to find out.
Here’s the good news. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act has been introduced in Congress and will require companies to list all ingredients on the product label – right where they should be, so that you can make your own decisions about which chemicals you want to avoid. Ask your Representative to support this bill so that companies can’t keep toxic chemicals a secret from you!
So, you’re asking, what am I supposed to use to clean my home? Until you know what’s in products you buy off the shelf, you can mix your own cleaners with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. This is a non-toxic, economical (and fun!) way to make sure you’re not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals hiding out in cleaners.
But the bottom line is that companies should be telling you what’s in their products, and cleaning products shouldn’t contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. Join me in demanding no more dirty secrets from cleaning product companies.
WVE seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate environmental pollutants that cause health problems for women, their families, and communities. To this end, WVE creates opportunities for women to influence environmental decision-making.
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