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Non-Toxic Cleaning Alternatives in your Home

CleanersKeeping our homes clean reduces exposure to germs, molds, mildew and of course dust.  But some of the cleaning products available in stores can cause health problems and contaminate our water supply, which also affects fish and wildlife.  When choosing cleaning products, it is important to consider both health and environmental hazards, because let’s face it, we all live downstream.

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to identify which products contain these hazardous ingredients. While cleaners are the only household products regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission under the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, their sellers aren’t required to reveal these products’ ingredients. These ingredients are considered “trade secrets,” so government regulations are actually designed to protect this proprietary information, not to protect human health or the environment.

When it comes to cleaners, the consumer has little to go on beyond the warning labels that manufacturers are required to put on their products. The labels DANGER, WARNING, CAUTION and POISON give only a very general idea about the seriousness of the unknown substances a product contains.  Consider avoiding products with these labels all-together.

There are reliable organizations that conduct research and publish information about chemicals in home cleaning supplies and the affects they have on our health and environment.  One resource is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov

The Environmental Working Group evaluated more than 2,000 cleaning products in its Guide to Healthy Cleaning database, based on ingredient information from company websites, labels, and published scientific studies: www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners. The breakdown asserts that DIY (do-it-yourself) cleaning products made from simple ingredients like white vinegar and baking soda are safest, but also offers less toxic alternatives when it comes to cleaners you’ll find in the store. Brands recommended for laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, and bathroom cleaners include Seventh Generation, Ecover, Mrs. Meyer’s, Planet, Zum Clean and others.

It is important to properly dispose of any leftover toxic cleaning products after switching to nontoxic. Improper disposal, such as pouring them down the drain, on the ground outside, into storm sewers, or throwing them out in the trash can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health. Many communities across the country offer options for safely disposing of toxic cleaning products, known also as “household hazardous waste.” Larimer County offers this FREE service at the landfill on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 9am-4pm.  For more information and specifics about what they accept visitwww.larimer.org/solidwaste/hazardous_waste.htm

As we continue to assume more responsibility for our personal health and wellbeing we must take the time to educate ourselves on alternative choices and practices that leave less of an impact.  The City of Fort Collins’ Healthy Sustainable Homes department has compiled a tremendous list of resources to help you learn more about the risks associated with toxic chemicals in our homes and how to avoid them:www.fcgov.com/healthyhomes/resources.php

In the Fort Collins area, the Sustainable Living Association offers hands-on workshops designed to help you make your own non-toxic cleaning products, www.sustainablelivingassociation.org and similar classes are available in the Denver area through the Institute for Environmental Services, www.i4es.org/projects/cec-project/emerging-contaminants

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