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To Clean Or Not To Clean

girl holding a cleaning duster In my younger (much younger) days, I dabbled in the world of beauty pageants. I did not, however, (much to the chagrin of my husband) win the coveted “Miss Queen of Clean” title. I have two small children, run my own business from home, and do my best to regularly attend the shoe sales at the mall. Keeping a tidy house is just not a huge priority right now. I do however keep a hygienic house. (Well, I wouldn’t advise eating off my kitchen floor – but it’s not unsanitary.)

When I was pregnant with my second baby, my Doctor advised me not to clean house using common household cleaners, as inhalation of the cleaning products could harm my unborn baby. Needless to say, I took his advice extremely seriously. I did not clean house. My husband, Mr. Neat Nick, did. This perturbed me. (Not my husband cleaning house - the “not inhaling fumes from cleaning products” bit.) So began my mission! I spent hours on the internet and in the library. More hours on the telephone with poison control centers and cancer organizations. What I discovered shocked me.

The chemicals and toxins found in common household cleaners have caused the air inside our homes to become five times more contaminated than the air outside, and fifty percent of all illnesses are caused by or aggravated by polluted indoor air. OK, so I can open my doors and windows everyday right? Well maybe not if I am allergic to every tree and grass in Texas – and I hate bugs.

Pound for pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than do adults. For example, children ages one through five years eat three to four times more food per pound than the average adult American. The air intake of a resting infant is twice that of an adult per pound of body weight. These patterns of increased consumption reflect the rapid metabolism of children. The implication for environmental health is that children will have substantially heavier exposures pound for pound than adults to any toxins that are present in water, food, or air. As a consequence of this biological immaturity, they are less able than adults to deal with toxic chemicals and thus they are more vulnerable to them.

The labels on cleaning products only have to warn of the acute (immediate) harms from ingesting a product, breathing the fumes, or contact with the eyes and skin. They don’t reveal the harms presented by chronic (long term) exposure to the chemicals in these products. Many common household cleaners contain chemicals known to contain carcinogens (cancer causing agents), neurotoxins, and corrosives and/or have been linked to ADD/ADHD autism, allergies, asthma, central nervous system damage and interference, muscle spasms, damage to blood tissue, and reproductive disorders. A well known brand of baby shampoo actually contains formaldehyde. This was a huge shocker for me! (By the way many harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and dioxin or Agent Orange are protected by trade secret names. For example, formaldehyde is called Quaternium 15).

Thirty years ago the major childhood illnesses were chickenpox, measles and mumps. Now they are asthma, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and Cancer – most of which have been linked to chemicals in the home.

Each year over 1 million children in the US are accidentally poisoned in their homes. More than 250,000 of these victims are hospitalized. 3000 children will end up in intensive care. Dozens more will die. Thousands of children and adults are permanently disfigured or injured through contact with chemicals in the home each year. The most common substance that poisons children in the US today is a well know brand of liquid dishwashing detergent. So what do we wash our “sippy cups” in?

I had discovered enough! I was on a mission to find a company that sold safe cleaning products. My Husband was delighted. Poor fellow thought I would take over the cleaning again. I found companies and stores that sold non-toxic cleaning products – all at a price. My search continued until I came across a company that sells better, safer products at dollar store prices! I was thrilled, and went to the mall to celebrate! I order once a month, and this company delivers the products right to my door – and, even better – I don’t have to order through a pushy rep – I can call the company direct or order online!

These products work (no elbow grease involved), smell great, and I don’t have to phone poison control if my child drinks the shower cleaner. Another plus is that my allergies have improved! They make a non-toxic product that kills dust mites, so now before I vacuum (around the Polly Pocket accessories and crayons), I spray my carpets with this product. It kills the mites, deodorizes, lifts the dirt and disinfects – all in one foul swoop! (I also spray this product on my pillows and mattresses).

Oh, and by the way, I have taken over the cleaning again. You still should probably not eat breakfast off my kitchen floor, BUT I am confident, that as a responsible parent, I am doing my part to protect my children from household toxics.

Debi will be happy to pass on the information on where to buy safer, non-toxic cleaning products. Email her at

About The Author
Debi Nelson, born and raised in South Africa, moved to the United Sates 4 years ago and started a Wellness Company which she manages from her home. She is a free lance writer and popular speaker/educator at hospitals, mothers groups, day care facilities, clinics, medical practices, schools and church groups. Debi is married and is the busy mother of two daughters, aged eight and one.

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