What is the Environmental Impact of Your Cleaning Products?

One Pound of CO2Ever wonder as you are inhaling those fresh, clean smelling scents of your cleaning product as to what is its health and environmental impact?

Only a small percentage (7%) of cleaning products disclose enough information to realistically estimate both their carbon footprints and environmental impact. In an increasingly ecologically minded society, this is surprising. With so little information, this means that consumers cannot make an informed decision, authorities cannot accurately track the health and environmental impact, and activists cannot pressure companies to produce a more eco-friendly product.

Environmental Impact of Cleaning Products
According to the Economist, only a few of us actually look at product labels to assess the carbon footprint and environmental impact. Current estimates suggest the carbon footprint producing these cleaning products to be 0.7lbs of CO2 per pound of product. In terms of volume of CO2, this is roughly the size of a 2 foot cube filled with CO2, pictured above.

This is a stark contrast to the food industry in Britain, where every action and emission is assessed. With regard to cleaning products, we do not know the cost of processing the chemicals, packaging them, creating the packaging, or transportation.

As noted above, carbon footprint only covers the amount of energy required to produce the product. However, its impact goes well beyond this to what leaked, spilled or used products have on the environment. For example, APEs, a type of cleaning compound with bioactive consequences has been banned in the UK for its effect on an organism’s endocrine system. Cleaning wipes are clogging up drains, rivers, oceans, and seafood across the world. Furthermore, many cleaning products contain toxic substances such as formaldehyde, ammonia, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

The Health Impact of Cleaning Products
It is always good to know exactly what chemicals are in your cleaning products because they can impact many adults, and especially children and pets. Fortunately, in many cases, the sheer size of an adult makes them less affected by these products but also our habits do too. Animals and children are more tactile, meaning they interact with the world through touch and taste as well as using eyes, noses, and mouths. Let’s look at some common ingredients in many cleaning products.

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Formaldehyde: High doses of formaldehyde can irritate throats, eyes, ears, and the nose if the chemical is inhaled. Concentrated levels indoors can also be flammable. If possible, avoid products containing formaldehyde.
Ammonia: Exposure to this chemical can cause lung damage, blindness, and death. Just ingesting a tiny amount will cause the throat to feel like it’s burning. The chemical itself is natural, the body uses ammonia to make proteins and other molecules, but in large artificial doses, it poses a real threat.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate: Exposure to this chemical can cause immunological problems including cancer while a small exposure may cause skin, hair, and eye damage.

Healthier Alternatives for Home and Environment
It is possible to clean your home in a green way while still making it safe to live in; even for children. To do this, you need to consider what natural products there are out there which can also be used for cleaning items. For example, surfaces, floors, teddy bears, windows, and so on. Here are a few suggestions:

White Vinegar: When mixed with warm water, and if you prefer a few drops of tea tree oil, this white vinegar homemade mixture can be used to clean almost any surface.

Lemons: Just like with vinegar, lemon juice mixed with warm water will clean surfaces and objects. The leftover halves of a lemon are also good for getting rid of bad smells.

In addition to this, you can use baking powder mixed with water and white vinegar to clean many things such as pots, pans, kettles and messy ovens. With a little research, you can find many good, edible products which are good for the environment.

Sally Collins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across a variety of subjects. She recently transitioned to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling. (sallykeys@zunemail.com)


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