“Natural” has become quite the buzz word for marketing. With no clear definition or regulation when it comes to cleaning consumers are often fooled into using products they think are safe just from titles and labels, like Simple Green. There are at least 5 reasons why you must switch to natural home products to green clean for your health and our environment.
What is a natural, green cleaning product?
With no guidance from the government, the industry group called the Natural Products Association, which represents a range of companies from Whole Foods to Clorox, issued the following guidelines:
The Essence of the NPA Natural Standard for Home Care Products
The NPA Natural Standard for Home Care Products is based on natural ingredients, safety, responsibility and sustainability.
- Natural Ingredients: A product labeled “natural” should be made up of only, or at least almost only, natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes.
- Safety: A product labeled “natural” should avoid any ingredient that has peer-reviewed, scientific research showing human health or environmental risk.
- Responsibility: A product labeled “natural” should use no animal testing in its development except where required by law.
- Sustainability: A product labeled “natural” should use biodegradable ingredients and the most environmentally sensitive packaging.
The Natural Certification Program and Seal of Approval
Under this program, products must follow strict guidelines set out by NPA to merit the seal. The criteria include, but are not limited to:
Product must be made up of at least 95 percent truly natural ingredients or ingredients that are derived from natural sources, excluding water
No ingredients with any suspected human health risks
No processes that significantly or adversely alter the natural ingredients
Ingredients that come from a purposeful, natural source (flora, fauna, mineral)
Processes that are minimal and don’t use synthetic/harsh chemicals
Non-natural ingredients only when no viable natural alternative ingredient are available and only when there are absolutely no suspected potential human health risks
Personally, I don’t think these guidelines go quite far enough. The “least almost only” and “95 percent truly natural ingredients” still allows for some misleading of consumers. Clearly stating the percentage of natural ingredients, which many companies do voluntarily, is more honest.
Why should you switch from chemically laden home cleaning products to natural ones?
5 reasons for the planet and your health you MUST clean green
1. Adverse health effects
From asthma to skin irritation to cancer, the potential negative effects of cleaning with chemicals are numerous. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains:
Environmental Working Group’s investigation of more than 2,000 cleaning supplies on the American market has found that many contain substances linked to serious health problems. EWG concludes that:
Fumes from some cleaning products may induce asthma in otherwise healthy individuals. A large and growing body of evidence links frequent use of many ordinary cleaning supplies at home or on the job with development of asthma and other respiratory problems. It is already known that cleaning product fumes may trigger attacks in persons previously diagnosed with asthma.
Common cleaning ingredients can be laced with the carcinogenic impurity 1,4-dioxane. Independent tests have detected the presence of 1,4-dioxane in numerous name-brand cleaning supplies. Other products contain preservatives that release low levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde.
Children born to women who held cleaning jobs while pregnant have an elevated risk of birth defects, according to a 2010 study by the New York State Department of Health.
Some cleaners can cause chemical burns and poisonings as well as less severe irritations and allergies. Severe physical reactions signal that consumers should take care anytime they use these products.
Despite these health concerns, cleaning product labels often do not give consumers enough information about their ingredients to allow people to make informed decisions on which ones are safer and which ones might harm their health.
2. Antibiotic Resistance
Have you or your child had an ear infection lately? I have three friends and family members currently struggling with ear infections for more than a month. Antibiotics are not working. I had a similar experience with an abscess on my tonsil. The doctors tried a variety of antibiotics with no luck.
Antibiotic resistance is real. It is happening. Could antibacterial cleaning products be contributing? A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded:
Currently, no evidence suggests that use of antibacteri- al soap containing 0.2% triclosan provides a benefit over plain soap in reducing bacterial counts and rate of infec- tious symptoms in generally healthy persons in the house- hold setting…Although we did not observe a significant impact on antimicrobial drug resistance during the 1-year period, a longer duration and more extensive use of triclosan might provide a suitable environment for emergence of antimi- crobial drug–resistant species in the community setting. Further surveillance for the effect of long-term use of anti- bacterial cleaning and hygiene products on antimicrobial drug resistance in the community is needed.
This study is ten years old. A slightly more recent article in Scientific American explains exactly what happens when you use antibacterial cleaning products:
Unlike these traditional cleaners, antibacterial products leave surface residues, creating conditions that may foster the development of resistant bacteria, Levy notes. For example, after spraying and wiping an antibacterial cleaner over a kitchen counter, active chemicals linger behind and continue to kill bacteria, but not necessarily all of them.
When a bacterial population is placed under a stressor—such as an antibacterial chemical—a small subpopulation armed with special defense mechanisms can develop. These lineages survive and reproduce as their weaker relatives perish. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is the governing maxim here, as antibacterial chemicals select for bacteria that endure their presence.
As bacteria develop a tolerance for these compounds there is potential for also developing a tolerance for certain antibiotics. This phenomenon, called cross-resistance, has already been demonstrated in several laboratory studies using triclosan, one of the most common chemicals found in antibacterial hand cleaners, dishwashing liquids and other wash products. “Triclosan has a specific inhibitory target in bacteria similar to some antibiotics,” says epidemiologist Allison Aiello at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
When bacteria are exposed to triclosan for long periods of time, genetic mutations can arise. Some of these mutations endow the bacteria with resistance to isoniazid, an antibiotic used for treating tuberculosis, whereas other microbes can supercharge their efflux pumps—protein machines in the cell membrane that can spit out several types of antibiotics, Aiello explains.
Natural cleaning products work just as well as chemical products claiming antibacterial qualities without the worry of adding to antibiotic resistance. We need antibiotics for medicine, not for cleaning.
3. Water and Soil Pollution
Just what happens to those chemicals in your cleaning products when you dump the mop bucket, throw away the paper towels, or wash those rags in the laundry? Where do they go? In our soil and water, of course, even after water treatment. SF Gate explains:
Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are dangerous water contaminants in large quantities. They are rinsed down drains and flushed down toilets as families clean the house. Most pollutants are removed from the water by the waste treatment facilities before the water is returned to the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways. However, those three household cleaning chemicals are not removed by waste treatment processes. Instead, they enter the waterways and build up, causing an accelerated growth of some types of plant life.
Not only algae blooms are created by these water pollutants, but aquatic life and human drinking water sources are adversely affected.
Apparently, even the antibiotic resistance mentioned in number 2 above is playing out in our soil and water. Again Scientific American explains:
Both triclosan and its close chemical relative triclocarban (also widely used as an antibacterial), are present in 60 percent of America’s streams and rivers, says environmental scientist Rolf Halden, co-founder of the Center for Water and Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Both chemicals are efficiently removed from wastewater in treatment plants but end up getting sequestered in the municipal sludge, which is used as fertilizer for crops, thereby opening a potential pathway for contamination of the food we eat, Halden explains. “We have to realize that the concentrations in agricultural soil are very high,” and this, “along with the presence of pathogens from sewage, could be a recipe for breeding antimicrobial resistance” in the environment, he says.
4. Air Pollution
That freshly cleaned scent is not so fresh. The smell of pine or citrus is actually quite toxic. EWG reports:
Many ingredients in cleaning products evaporate easily, and some can react with other contaminants in the air to produce new, asthma-inducing chemicals. Some of these volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, have been measured at levels up to 100 times higher than those found outdoors and can exceed safety limits established for industrial facilities (Nazaroff 2006; EWG 2009; Bello 2010).
Airborne reactions involving volatile organic compounds can produce ozone, a powerful lung irritant. Long-term exposure to ozone during childhood can cause permanent lung damage (Kunzli 1997; Gilliland 2001). While there is little conclusive evidence that ozone alone can cause asthma, the subject merits more extensive study.
Pine- and citrus-based cleaners contain a class of volatile chemicals known as terpenes, which indirectly increase asthma risks. Terpenes may also be found in air fresheners and cleaners that contain other essential oils for fragrance. They react with ozone to form formaldehyde, an asthmagen and known human carcinogen.
The California Air Resources Board recommends that consumers avoid using citrus and pine oil cleaners, especially on warm, smoggy, high-ozone days (CARB 2008). Ozone-forming volatile organic compounds and ozone-reactive terpenes from pine and citrus oils may act together to increase formaldehyde air pollution. The combined effects on air quality of cleaning products that release these chemicals have not been studied and are a cause for concern.
VOCs are now regulated by the government. Exposure risk is increased when using spray cleaners.
5. Adding to Landfills
How many cleaning products are under your sink? As consumers, we like to try new products. They can inspire cleaning, but what happens to the old ones. Do you use the old product up completely? Do you recycle the container? Is it recyclable?
When switching to green cleaning supplies, the packaging is also more eco-friendly. Made from recyclable or biodegradable materials, eco-friendly cleaning supplies consider not only the ingredients but the waste of their products. Furthermore, many of these products are available in more concentrated forms (why pay for water?) or bulk.
Green Cleaning Solutions
There are lots of recipes online to make your own cleaning products. Usually all it takes is some vinegar, lemon juice and/or baking soda; however, I do like to just buy my green cleaning supplies.
So who can you trust? Radiantly You! That’s who! I just love the name! We just discovered this company that uses simple, effective, natural ingredients.
We care about your health and the health of your family, that’s why we pledge to use only the finest ingredients in our products. Built on the pillars of 100% natural and honest labeling, our organic and natural ingredients nourish you without any harmful chemicals. We strive everyday to offer you effective, safe products and we believe we have the purest options around.
Many of our ingredients are used in their raw, unrefined state. This means they have never been bleached, stripped or altered in any way – leaving them full of naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. We source all of our ingredients from reputable, certified organic vendors and we take great care in making sure our ingredients are both ethically traded and sustainably harvested.
I know when I recognize all of the ingredients on a label, it is a product I can trust. Even many organic and natural brands leave me scrambling to the EWG for deciphering. This is not the case with Radiantly You.
Of course, Radiantly You does not test on animals.
We were sent the following green cleaning products to try:
- All-Natural Counter Spray Concentrate
- All-Natural Tub Scrub
I love how the counter spray makes appliances shine, and the tub scrub really gets off those hard water stains without much scrubbing.
Radiantly You also makes personal care products with simple, safe ingredient lists. The same toxic ingredients, like VOCs, are found in beauty products as cleaning products. Additionally, there are harmful ingredients and potential allergens unique to the beauty industry. What you put on your body is just as important as what you put on your counters.
We were sent the following green personal care products to try:
- Vanilla Mint Toothpaste
- Invigorating Lemon Hand Soap
- Unscented All-in-One Bar
I am impressed with the packaging for the bar of soap. It is similar to a recycled egg carton. The toothpaste is awesome! Featuring organic coconut oil and baking soda, you know it is good for your teeth!
All of our products are handcrafted here in Western New York, using Certified Organic ingredients. Our mission includes educating and empowering families to “ditch and switch” while offering them the highest quality and most reasonably priced safe and non-toxic products out there!
There are so many reasons to switch to green cleaning and personal care products. By making the change not only will you protect your family’s health and the local environment, you will support ethical, small companies that care about your well-being and the planet too!
As an Independent Wellness Guide with RY, I am SO proud to be a part of the company. This post is so informative and helpful to everyone who wants to have a greener home. Making the switch can sometimes be daunting, but we’re all in this together! #whyiRY #ditchandswitch
Amy Brookes says
I am so thankful for this company and the safe and effective products they offer! I’ve been an IWG for a little over a year now and the sustainability of this opportunity and what it can do for my family financially is incredible and it motivates me every day to be a part of this mission with people like YOU!
Hi Maggie 🙂 #whyiRY #IWGfamily
Valary Bilson says
Your reasons are the absolute truth. I’m all FOR green cleaning and I hope more people understand it’s the only way. We’re not the only important creatures on this planet. If we don’t care for the Earth, She won’t care for us as well.
Janis Davidson says
Incredibly well written article! I agree that the companies use the “green” word for doing their marketing and very often the products that are labeled “green” has nothing to do with the safe household natural ingredients. Most of the people are not aware of the big impact that toxic cleaners have on our health. Me and my family use vinegar, baking soda, essential oils in order to create efficient house cleaners and we are really happy with the results! Thank you for sharing this incredible post!
South Florida says
I have always personally had a passion for the environment so I really appreciate this article. Green cleaning ingredients are a huge part of what I look for in a cleaning product because I have children and pets. When I see harsh chemical ingredients, it makes me hesitate to use them in my home, and especially on my floors, where my children will be playing! I prefer to use high heat steaming or other methods of sanitation whenever possible. A lot of concern has been raised in VOC’s in carpeting. I wonder if there is a green or eco-friendly brand of carpeting, perhaps made with recycled fabric? Also, wondering if there are green and all natural cleaning products made specially for removing stains from carpeting because often I will resort to harsh chemicals because it is hard to find natural solutions that work equally as well.
I enjoyed the informative info!