Killing You Softly
Do you know that household products such as air fresheners contain harmful substances that can damage your health in the long run? You might be surprised, but it’s time to make a change for the sake of your family’s health! The first step? Minimise the exposure to toxins by paying more attention to the products that you buy off the shelf.
Most of us want a clean home where the air has no obnoxious odours and every corner is dust-free. With so many types of cleaners out there, we’re literally spoiled for choice. But before you happily buy your usual brand, take a few minutes to study its label. Does it contain toxic substances that should be a cause for concern? You wouldn’t consciously use toxins on yourself nor would you expose your family to poisonous fumes so why would you be blasé about buying cleaners that could potentially harm your health in the long run? In fact there are products where if you mix them together, they produce toxic vapours that can be lethal e.g. bleach and ammonia.
Others release harmful substances such as VOCs and allergens into the air while some products contain the following chemicals that are commonly associated with harmful bodily effects like skin irritation and cancer risks:
- Used to soften plastics so they would be less brittle and not crack when bent
- May lead to reproductive problems, hormonal abnormalities, and birth defects
- Found in home products such as air fresheners as well as items that are made from vinyl or PVC e.g. shower curtains
- Used as a starting material to make other chemical products like plastics, rubbers, and detergents
- Damages the immune system and causes cells like the bone marrow to produce insufficient red blood cells, which results in anaemia
- People can also be exposed to benzene via cigarette and second-hand smoke
- As part of the normal metabolic process, it’s produced by most living organisms in small quantities
- Classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance)
- Used in many household products such as pressed-wood furniture (particlewood, fiberwood and plywood), as well as glue
Scary, isn’t it? Other ingredients that you have keep a look out for include but are not limited to: Vanillin, Benzyl Acetate, and Ethyl Acetoacetate. Studies have also shown that housewives are found to have 55% more risk of developing cancer than women who work outside the home. The statistics are equally scary for children who come from cleaner homes; apparently they have nearly double the risk of developing asthma. But fear not! There are viable and more eco-friendly options that can be easily bought from supermarkets and the like.
Air Fresheners and Deodorisers
Due to household activities such as cooking, your home may smell a little on the bad side. Most people will choose to use air fresheners, but breathing in too much of the scented air is not good for your health. It can even make asthma worse and affect reproductive development adversely. They also impede your sense of smell by releasing nerve-deadening agents or coating your nasal passages with chemicals. The ingredients on the label may just have ‘fragrance’ listed, but you never know what it refers to specifically or what types of chemicals it contains.
So play safe and follow one of the following options that are healthier instead:
- Open up the windows to let the fresh air in
- Cultivate indoor plants such as peace lily (avoid if you have cats) and Boston fern to neutralise the odours
- Heat a pot of water and put a few citrus peels (like orange or lemon) into it, the scent will gently drift to all parts of your home
- Mix a spray bottle of white vinegar (4 teaspoons) and water (4 cups) for an instant but natural deodoriser
- Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to white vinegar, vodka or alcohol to create an effective yet eco-friendly sanitiser or deodoriser, this mixture also makes a great household cleaner as well (do note that citrus essence oils can lighten or bleach furniture so use them with care)
- Use baking soda for neutralising acidic odours such as urine or vomit while white vinegar works wonderfully on alkaline odours such as the ones given out by human and animal solid waste
- Another economical deodoriser alternative is the activated charcoal, which can be easily bought at aquariums
Like air fresheners and deodorisers, household cleaners contain a whole range of chemicals that make for effective cleaning but are not so good for our health in the long run. White vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils are all useful ingredients that you should utilise to the fullest, but here are other natural options you can consider:
- Cornstarch: great as a window cleaner, furniture polisher, grease remover or shampoo for carpets and rugs
- Salt: effective fabric softener and stain remover
- Soap nuts: eco-friendly alternative for your laundry since it’s basically the fruit of the Sapindus tree that grows in Nepal and India
Why subject your family members to toxic insect repellent fumes when you can simply turn to the more eco-friendly essential oils? For pests such as mosquitoes, essential oils can also act as a larvicidal (they kill larvae). Here is a rough guide on which essential oil to use for different types of pests:
- Mosquitoes: Lemongrass, Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Pine etc.
- Mosquito larvae: Thyme or Peppermint
- Cockroaches: Cypress or Peppermint
- Bed bugs: Rosemary, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Patchouli
- Ants: Spearmint, Peppermint, Orange, Idaho Tansy
Essential oils don’t just get rid of the pests naturally, they have a lovely scent that can serve as your very own aromatherapy too! But if you have an existing medical condition or are pregnant, do consult your doctor before using any essential oil. Oh, and be sure to use good quality essential oils in the therapeutic grade. Know of other eco-friendly methods to clean your home? We’ll love to hear from you on our Facebook Fan Page!