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Fresh 5: Cleaning Supplies: Balancing Health and Environmental Considerations


Written By Annie Hessler


With growing awareness of surrounding household cleaning products' potential environmental and health implications and numerous options on the market, consumers have recently shown concern regarding the chemicals in their products and what implications they may be having on not only the environment but the well-being of our health. This article will examine the five key considerations surrounding cleaning supplies, focusing on their environmental impact, health implications, user-friendliness, and production process. 


Household cleaning products play a present role in many lives, cleaning up after messes and maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of our homes. However, the ingredients that go into these products have more of an effect beyond their immediate use. From volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to antimicrobial agents, these chemicals present in cleaning products can impact both our indoor air quality and environmental health (Temkin et al., 2023). 


Recently, there has been a surge in the popularity of "green" products, marketing them as safer and cleaner alternatives. While this may be true for some products, how many of them truly live up to their claims? Let's delve deeper into this research to find out. 


Environmental Impact:

Recent studies show that conventional cleaning products emit a multitude of VOCs, contributing to indoor air pollutants (Temkin et al., 2023). Conventional cleaning products are classified as any product using synthetic or petroleum-based ingredients. These VOCs, such as hazardous chemicals like toluene and chloroform, can affect respiratory systems and overall well-being (Temkin et al., 2023). 

More specifically, the use of fragrances in these products can lead to harmful secondary pollutants. This occurs when chemicals react with other chemicals in the air to form other pollutants (Harding-Smith et al., 2024). Polymers used in such products have also raised questions about their ecological risk, highlighting the need for further assessment of their environmental implications (McAvoy et al., 2019).


While "green" cleaning products are touted as safer alternatives, research indicates that they may not offer significant improvements in indoor air quality (Harding-Smith et al., 2024). While they may emit fewer VOCs overall, certain "green" cleaners still contribute to the production of harmful secondary pollutants, raising concerns about their environmental impact.


Health Considerations:

Chemical exposure to cleaning products has been linked to a variety of health effects, including respiratory problems, neurotoxicity, reproductive diseases, and even an increased risk of cancer (Temkin et al., 2023). In particular, fragranced products have been linked to contact dermatitis, allergies, and other sensitivities (Pastor-Nieto et al., 2021).


Furthermore, the extensive use of antibacterial cleaning agents raises concerns regarding antimicrobial resistance (Aiello et al., 2005). This occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi develop the ability to resist treatments intended to kill them. While initial studies indicate no major increase in resistance, persistent and extensive usage of specific antimicrobial agents may result in the emergence of resistant strains, prompting further research (Aiello et al., 2005).


User-Friendliness and Price:

When it comes to user-friendliness, consumers often prioritize convenience and effectiveness. While conventional cleaning products may offer immediate results, they can have potential health and environmental consequences. On the other hand, despite being perceived as safer, "green" cleaning products may require more effort or cost to achieve similar cleaning efficacy.


Production:

Understanding the production processes of cleaning products is crucial for assessing their overall sustainability, which includes raw material sourcing, manufacturing, and packaging (Nguyen et al., 2020). Each stage has significant environmental and resource implications concerning materials, technology, and market appeal. By choosing companies that use biodegradable or recyclable materials, are transparent about their production technologies, and design packaging that aligns with environmental goals and consumer expectations, we can support a more sustainable approach (Nguyen et al., 2020).


Recommended Products by us:

As consumers, making informed choices about cleaning supplies is essential for safeguarding both personal health and environmental well-being. While conventional products may offer immediate cleanliness, they often come with hidden costs in terms of environmental pollution and health risks. On the other hand, green alternatives, while promising, require careful scrutiny to ensure they deliver on their claims of safety and sustainability. By prioritizing products with safer ingredients, eco-friendly production processes, and transparent labeling, consumers can contribute to a cleaner, healthier future for all.


Healthy DIY Cleaning Solutions

Making the switch to safer household cleaning products is imperative for personal health and environmental well-being. From personal experiences like Hazel Salazar's blistered hands due to conventional cleaners to the challenges faced by first-generation immigrants in navigating the cleaning industry's language barriers and pressure for quick results, the need for safer alternatives is evident (Rivero & Ortega, 2022). 


Fortunately, homemade cleaning solutions offer effective alternatives using common household ingredients like: 

  • baking soda

  • vinegar

  • liquid soap. 


These DIY recipes, including all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, window cleaner, drain cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, oven cleaner, and copper cleaner, provide non-toxic options without sacrificing efficacy. By spreading awareness and sharing these recipes, individuals can empower themselves and others to create cleaner, healthier homes while minimizing their environmental impact (Rivero & Ortega, 2022).


In navigating the landscape of cleaning supplies, resources like the Environmental Protection Agency's Safer Choice program provides valuable guidance in identifying products that meet rigorous safety and environmental standards. By choosing wisely, consumers can play a proactive role in promoting freshwater wellness and sustainable living.


As always, if you have questions or are interested in learning more, you can call/text 231-492-0046 to schedule a meeting with Dr. Abigail, or you can book online.


 

References:

  • Aiello, A. E., Marshall, B., Levy, S. B., Della-Latta, P., Lin, S. X., & Larson, E. (2005). Antibacterial cleaning products and drug resistance. Emerging infectious diseases.

  • Harding-Smith, E., Shaw, D. R., Shaw, M., Naidenko, O. V., & Leiba, N. S. (2024). Does green mean clean? Volatile organic emissions from regular versus green cleaning products. RSC Advances.

  • McAvoy, D., Pittinger, C., & Stanton, K. (2019). Polymers used in US household cleaning products: Assessment of data availability for ecological risk assessment. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.

  • Pastor-Nieto, M. A., & Gatica-Ortega, M. E. (2021). Ubiquity, hazardous effects, and risk assessment of fragrances in consumer products. Contact Dermatitis.

  • Rivero, A., & Ortega, T. (2022, August 4). Household cleaners that work without toxic chemicals - toxic-free future. Toxic. https://toxicfreefuture.org/healthy-choices/household-cleaners-that-work-without-toxic-chemicals/ 

  • Temkin, A. M., Geller, S. L., & Swanson, S. A. (2023). Volatile organic compounds emitted by conventional and “green” cleaning products in the U.S. market. Chemosphere.

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