Why Conscientious Parents Should Care About Safe Products and Full Disclosure of Ingredients
There is so much build up in the media today about being green. Frankly, it is almost unrealistic to brush aside. The theme has become front and center with high profile events like the 80th Academy Awards Go Green Effort, Vanity Fair magazine’s Green Issue and Green Guide to Life. Suddenly “going green” has become the new buzz of mass marketing. The bottom line is that everyone is going green. But distinguishing what is real, and what is an attempt to give the impression of green living is important; especially when it is time for you to choose the path to providing a truly non-toxic environment for you and your family. We all want what’s best for our families and our future. But with every brand name slapping catchphrases like “natural” and “botanically infused” on their products how can the consumer filter out the real deal from the hype?
First and foremost – we’re busy! In the maelstrom of getting our kids to school, juggling careers, extracurriculars, household duties, and still finding a moment for “down time,” we avoid the hassle of tackling something new. Do we really need to take the time to educate ourselves about something as mundane as cleaning products? Is it really that much more important to purchase eco-friendly non-toxic household cleaners and personal products than the mainstream brands we’re accustomed to? After all, most of us grew up with Tile-X and liquid Bleach, and have yet to be labeled walking toxic waste hazards. So what should motivate us to swap out our convenient window cleaner for its earth friendly alternative?
Check out some fast facts about household products:
- According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers accidental poisonings occur in the home every 30 seconds.
- The National Safety Council has reported that more children under four die of from accidental poisoning than are killed by guns.
- A report by the EPA to Congress determined household cleaners three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air pollution.
- Women who work from home and are more frequently exposed to household toxins and poor air quality are 50% more likely to develop cancer.
- Newborn infants have trace levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies, passed on by their mother’s exposure.
So considering even this small handful of information about common household products, how are we obligated to respond? You would not purposefully expose your children to known carcinogens, or allow access to a loaded weapon. But nearly every household contains a host of poisonous chemicals under a kitchen sink or in a hall closet, many with serious warning labels. Take stock of how many of your products suggest calling Poison Control should contact occur. And look for ambiguous “ingredients” that are classified as “trade secrets”, and therefore do not need to be listed (example: the Ajax with Bleach ingredient list includes “quality control agents” but doesn’t specify what those are). While warning labels are frightening enough, the scariest part is that they don’t always include the worst health offenders. Toxic inert substances can make up more than half of a product but not even be listed as an “active ingredient.”
However, the familiarity of such chemicals to our daily lives has rendered them innocuous in our busy minds. Who has time to worry about finding organic dishwasher detergent? And yet, every year children suffer severe – in some cases fatal – base burns from spilled bleach and dishwasher detergent. Liquid ammonia from convenient spray cleaners like Windex quickly evaporates during use, and continually seeps from closed containers, polluting the air inside your home. According to published research, toxins from petrochemical cleaning agents are stored in our fatty tissue, accumulating in the body over years of exposure. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that, “of chemicals commonly found in the home 150 have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities.”
There is an increasingly large body of research to document the detrimental effects of household pollutants, and you as a parent should have the right to keep your home clean and sanitized without exposure to proven toxins. In a world of instant gratification and hectic schedules most of us have become complacent about the mainstream products we’re accustomed to using. But as scientific research and attention from conscientious consumers bring both the serious immediate and latent side effects of toxic household chemicals to light, we should all find the time to make a change to equally effective, eco-friendly products we can feel good about for the whole family! We have the moral obligation to act on our knowledge, and provide a safe and nurturing environment for our children. And as producers and consumers we should be committed to bringing the incidence of accidental poisoning and toxic accumulation down to zero.
So what should the conscientious parent consider when looking for products that can legitimately be called “green”? Some catchphrases to beware of include “naturally derived,” “from nature,” and “botanically inspired.” While they sound attractive, they don’t indicate truly eco-friendly products. Even the word “organic” does not always certify that the majority of ingredients are organic, or have not been simply manufactured from organic compounds. Many harmful chemicals found in mainstream products are derived from natural ingredients, but manipulated in labs to form compounds far from safe or natural. When searching for the real deal be certain your household products indicate they are “90%-100% organic,” “non-toxic,” and indicate that all ingredients are listed. And avoid common harmful chemicals.
- Parabens (preservatives some studies have connected to breast cancer)
- Glycols (organic solvents that can be passed from mother to fetus, and can affect the nervous system in high doses)
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (a foaming agent known to cause skin and eye irritation, and found in the majority of bubble baths, shampoos and shower gels)
Reading labels may not be your favorite thing to do, but a little effort ahead of time can ensure you grab a thoroughly safe and effective product next time you’re whizzing through the supermarket. Educate yourself to make healthier decisions for your family, and share the promise of a safer, more sustainable future.
Labreche, F. P., & Goldber, M. S. (1997). Exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer in women: A Hypothesis. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 32, 1-14.
Environmental Working Group. Chemical Families: Parabens. Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/563
Department of Health Services. Glycol Ethers: How glycol ethers enter and affect your body. Retrieved from: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/OHB/HESIS/glycols.htm