We all want a clean home, but many people unknowingly introduce hundreds of toxic chemicals into their indoor environments through their use of chemical-filled store-bought cleaning products. Most commercial household cleaning agents contain a number of dangerous toxins, including: • Parabens, used in a wide-variety of cleaning products, are hormone disruptors that can cause contact dermatitis. • Phosphoric acid, a popular corrosive, irritates the skin and eyes and can cause breathing and central nervous system problems. • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS,) a foaming agent, is a known skin irritant and can react with other chemicals to create cancer-causing nitrosamines. • Sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach,) an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant, is especially dangerous to people with heart or respiratory problems and is fatal if swallowed. • Ethylene-based glycol, a common solvent, can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and has been classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). • Crystaline Silica, found in many abrasive cleansers, is a likely carcinogen and a known lung and eye irritant. • Ethoxylated nonyl phenols (NPEs,) a group of chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system and induce female characteristics in male fish, has been banned by the European Union but is still used in the United States and Canada. • Ammonia, known to cause breathing difficulties and skin burns, it can also irritate eyes and mucous membranes. • Benzyl Alcohol, present in various soaps, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners, causes respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. These ingredients may sound scary - and they are. Luckily, it's very easy to reduce your family's exposure to these toxic chemicals by switching to natural cleaning products made from common household items. In fact, with a few simple ingredients, you can create homemade cleaning solutions that are just as effective, yet far safer, than commercial alternatives – and come at a fraction of their cost. Below are some simple suggestions that will allow you to replace chemical-laden cleaning products with non-toxic alternatives. • White distilled vinegar kills mildew, cuts grease, and reduces odors. Fill an empty spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and use it anywhere that you would normally use an "all-purpose" cleaner. (It works especially good on windows and mirrors.) • Baking soda is an effective abrasive agent. A water-baking soda paste can be used to clean ovens, toilets,and tubs. An open box of baking soda also works great as a natural alternative to chemical- emitting air fresheners. • Lemon juice is a great-smelling acidic cleanser with anti-bacterial properties. It can be used to dissolve soap scum and to shine brass and copper. Try adding a few drops to a vinegar or baking soda concoction. • Cornstarch can be used as a window cleaner and to polish furniture. • Simple unscented soap (in any form) can be mixed with water to create a gentle, basic cleanser with many uses. If you prefer the convenience of buying your cleaning products, there are an increasing number of eco-friendly options on the market. Choose those with a "Green Seal" or "EcoLogo" to ensure t hat you're truly getting a green cleaning product and not just a deceivingly-marketed chemical cleanser.
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