By Dr. Mercola
Demand for safe "green" cleaning products is on the rise, as consumers are increasingly unwilling to risk their health for the sake of a "clean" home.
The truth is, most cleaning products on the market are toxic chemical cocktails, and when you spritz your bathtub or kitchen counter with that brightly colored liquid you're exposing yourself and your family to endocrine-disrupting phthalates, carcinogenic benzene, and organ-damaging phenols, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, finding a safer option is not as straightforward as it may seem, because when it comes to cleaning products -- even avowedly "green" cleaning products -- you can't judge a book by its cover.
Popular Green Cleaner "Simple Green" is Actually Toxic
Simple Green is one of the most widely used, supposedly "green" cleaning products on the market.
It's named "green" not only because of its color, of course, but because it is trying to promote a safe and natural image.
In fact, Simple Green's web site calls it "the leader of non-toxic, biodegradable, environmentally safer cleaning products."
This sounds great… until you discover its ingredients, which by the way is not a simple feat because cleaning product manufacturers -- even those that claim to be "green" -- are not required by law to disclose all their ingredients on product labels.
This is where a product's material safety data sheet (MSDS) comes in handy. The product manufacturer must make an MSDS available to consumers; this is federally mandated, so if you are in doubt about a product's true ingredients, this is the source to turn to. In the case of Simple Green, the MSDS is incredibly revealing, as it states that the formula contains up to 4 percent 2-Butoxyethanol by volume.
2-Butoxyethanol Linked to Birth Defects, Reproductive Problems and More
2-Butoxyethanol is a petrochemical solvent that has been shown to destroy red blood cells and cause reproductive problems and minor birth defects. At GreenMedInfo you can further see 10 diseases associated with 2-butoxyethanol, including liver cancer and osteoarthritis. Other health risks revealed by the MSDS for 2-Butoxyethanol include:
Inhalation: Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include sore throat, coughing, headache, nausea and shortness of breath. High concentrations have a narcotic effect
Ingestion: Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Toxic! May cause systemic poisoning with symptoms paralleling those of inhalation.
Skin Contact: May cause irritation with redness and pain. May be absorbed through the skin with possible systemic effects.
Eye Contact: Vapors are irritating and may produce immediate pain, redness and tearing. Splashes can cause severe pain, stinging, swelling.
Chronic Exposure: Prolonged or repeated exposures can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lymphoid system, blood and blood-forming organs.
Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions: Persons with pre-existing skin disorders, eye problems, impaired liver, kidney, blood, respiratory or lymphoid system function may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.
Reproductive Toxicity: Has shown teratogenic effects in laboratory animals.
Perhaps what is most disturbing about this information is that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, with women, children and the elderly being more susceptible to being harmed by chemicals like 2-butoxyethanol due to their increased likelihood of exposure. In the case of the very young, such as infants, whose blood-brain barrier and detoxification systems are not yet fully developed, the danger may be hundreds of times higher than for adults.
2-Butoxyethanol is Also a Dispersant Chemical Banned in the UK
Remember the 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where BP attempted to "clean up" the water with highly toxic dispersants? It's a disaster that's virtually impossible to forget, one that was made even more tragic because of BP's indiscriminate use of two toxic products from a line of dispersants manufactured by Nalco: Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527A.
Corexit products were removed from a list of approved treatments for oil spills in the U.K. more than a decade ago after the agents were linked to human health problems including respiratory, neurological, liver, kidney and blood disorders, as well as "harmful effects" on sea life. Corexit 9527, an older formula used only during the early days of the clean-up according to Nalco, has been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a 'chronic and acute health hazard.'
The 9527 product contains 2-butoxyethanol, an ingredient identified as the cause of ongoing health problems in Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup workers, which is also found in Simple Green cleaner! As GreenMedInfo stated:
"It was the absence of the highly toxic and controversial 2-butoxyethanol in the 9500 Corexit formula that made it a 'safer' alternative. It is believed that 2-butoxyethanol contributed to the significantly shorter lifespan of Exxon Valdez clean-up workers and is why Corexit 9527 was banned in the United Kingdom."
It's Common for 'Green' Cleaners to Contain Toxins
Unfortunately, Simple Green is not the only chemical cleaner trying to masquerade as a natural product. In general, if you pick up a green cleaning product and it does not have its ingredients clearly labeled, you need to be very suspicious.
Take, for example, one study that analyzed 25 commonly used, scented products, including cleaning products (disinfectants, all-purpose cleaners, dish detergents), half of which claimed to be green, organic, or natural. Amazingly, the products tested emitted an average of 17 chemicals EACH, but only ONE compound was actually listed on the label.
All in all, the 25 products tested emitted a total of 133 different chemicals, about 25 percent of which are currently classified as toxic or hazardous under federal law, but only one of these 133 chemicals were disclosed on the label … and only two were listed on the MSDS! And every single product emitted at least one chemical listed as toxic or hazardous! So it truly is a buyer-beware market when it comes to cleaning supplies -- even "green" cleaning products. Further, researchers noted:
"For 'green' products, emissions of these compounds were not significantly different from the other products."
Do You Want to Clean Your Home Safely? Here are the Simple Tips…
Have a clean home should not mean sacrificing your health due to chemical exposures, plain and simple. In fact, some of the best cleaners are items you probably already have around your home, such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Here's a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:
Liquid castile soap
Organic essential oils (optional)
For a great video on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please review the article: How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally. For example, lemon juice is a natural whitener, vinegar and water makes an excellent window cleaner, and vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer.
Baking soda is also great to scrub your bath and kitchen. Put it in a glass grated cheese container with a stainless steel top that has holes in it, and just sprinkle the baking soda on the surfaces and scrub. You may add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this, such as lavender and tea tree oil, which have added anti-bacterial qualities.
If you prefer a ready-made cleaner, there are some truly safe versions out there, including our new Greener Cleaner, which my team and I spent over three years working on to develop the best environmentally and personally safe cleaner on the market. Ideally, you can use safe cleaners such as this, in combination with tired-and-true natural ingredients, to completely replace dangerous chemical cleaning products in your home. Here are several more simple tips to get you started:
- Use baking soda as a safe, non-scratch scrub for metals and porcelain.
- To clean your oven, sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
- To unclog a drain, pour 1/2-1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour 1/2-1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it's working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
- Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
- To rid your garbage disposal of foul smells, add vinegar to water for ice cubes, then let a few of them get chopped by your disposal.
- To clean your silver, boil 2-3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away the tarnish with a clean cotton cloth.