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Sustainability

Cleaning products EXPOSED

September 19, 2010
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When employees clean toilets, bath tiles, kitchen floors, or windows, they and the building occupants can smell the toxins.

Product labels warn users to wear gloves, avoid contact with skin and eyes, and by all means do not breathe the fumes.

The EPA estimates indoor air is 5 to 100 times more toxic than the air in a major industrialized city.

The use of bleach, traditional cleaning products, and air fresheners all contribute to dangerous pollution levels indoors.

Chlorine bleach has been around for almost two centuries and is the No. 1 cause of industrial poisonings, leading to illnesses and environmental pollution.

From disinfecting to mold removal, conventional cleaning methods require protective gear and employ chlorine products.

New research has linked the residue compounds left by chlorine cleaners to a variety of illnesses from respiratory disorders to cancer.

The health risks that employees face have the potential to become serious liabilities.

Furthermore, potential customers know the dangers chemical products represent and are seeking alternatives.

Green alternatives provide the solution
As the truth about the chemical and petroleum industries leaks, consumers and professional cleaners are faced with harsh realities.

People want to protect their businesses, employees, clients, and families in light of the new information.

Now more than ever, cleaning specialists are under the scrutiny of an informed and demanding clientele.

To stay competitive in this high-speed market, your operation needs an edge.

For cleaning professionals and residential cleaners, the green-clean revolution provides a marketing edge.

However, it is often hard to read between the advertising lines.

The following uncovers the products that could be affecting the health of your employees and clients as well as stunting the growth of your business.

Chemicals that harm
Petrochemicals are a No. 1 offender.

These are petroleum-based products that leave dangerous residues.

These products may be derived from oil, coal, or natural gas, and are used to make plastics, pesticides, health care products and cleaners.

These chemicals have been linked to cancers, neurological illnesses and environmental devastation.

Dry cleaning chemicals, such as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene, are part of this group.

These products can cause skin rashes, headaches and dizziness in the short term.

Other chemicals in this group are commonly listed as ethylene, propylene, benzene (a carcinogenic family that includes naphthalene), benzol, annulene, phenyl hydride, diethanolamine, triethanolamine, monoethanolamine and xylene.

These chemicals are known neurotoxins implicated in central nervous system depression.

The carcinogenic effects are felt more strongly because many bioaccumulate in marine organisms.

This means they potentially contaminate the food chain.

Ammonia is a common ingredient in window cleaners that can irritate the lungs, eyes and mucus membranes.

It is extremely dangerous when mixed with other chemicals, such as bleach.

Ammonia adds nitrogen to the environment, often resulting in disruptions to the ecosystem.

Ammonia is included as a toxic chemical on the EPA’s Community Right-to-Know list.

The FDA also regulates the amount of ammonium compounds in food.

Chlorine is the bleaching agent commonly found in household bleaches.

Though it will get whites notably whiter, this chemical is extremely irritating to the lungs, skin and mucus membranes.

In fact, it was used as a powerful poison in World War I.

Chlorine is the household chemical most frequently involved in household and industrial poisonings, creating a heavy liability for your business or facility.

Chlorine ranks first in causing industrial injuries and deaths resulting from large-scale accidents.

The residues left behind, known as organochlorides, have been linked to many cancers, including breast cancer.

Studies have also shown a link between chlorine and the development of asthma in young children as well as users.

Aerosol sprays once contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) until they were prohibited because of the effects on the ozone layer.

The most common replacements are mixtures of volatile hydrocarbons, typically propane, n-butane and isobutane, all of which are flammable petrochemicals.

The green side
There are several proven green ingredients available today.

Enzymes are a natural and effective way to clean most any surface, including mold.

An enzyme is a protein that naturally occurs in our foods, our bodies and our environment.

The enzymes in cleaning products are designed to breakdown and dissolve grime, and some have been found helpful in the industrial cleaning of waste water streams.

Because they munch apart organic material, they are ideal for deodorizing.

Most enzymes are safe on a variety of surfaces and even fabrics.

They do not bleach, stain or have a fragrance.

Plant-based surfactants derived from coconuts, citrus fruits, and other plant parts are improving their efficacy.

New green technology is discovering how these fruit products can work better at eliminating soils, while protecting indoor air quality.

Mineral salts are common in the environment.

Green companies are finding new uses for these salts, such as the removal of soap scum.

These compounds are strong, yet do not pollute the environment or endanger people with fumes.

They are often as odorless as table salt.

The green cleaning product revolution is evolving.

Now there are numerous products on the market that aim to protect users and the environment.

Look for cleaners that are enzyme-based, plant-based and fragrance-free.

Perfumes and dyes contribute to respiratory problems and multiple chemical sensitivity disorders.

The benefits of going green will translate to more green in your pocket as eco-consciousness grows.

From improving employee health to modernizing your company’s or department’s image, green companies have a higher perceived value.

The perks of eco-commerce range from commercial discounts by green distributors to tax incentives that can save hundred of dollars.


Danielle Downs is a writer and environmental advocate for EcoDiscoveries in Atlanta, GA, which produces a variety of enzyme-based green cleaning products. For more tips on going green contact her at ddowns@ecodiscoveries.com or check out ecodiscoveries.com.

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