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Don't Offend with Second-Hand Chemicals  
   by Roger Harris

Feel overwhelmed by cleaning tasks? There's one way to actually take control over the toxins that may be stressing out your nervous system and your detox systems – stop using chemicals on your body and in your house. You'll also be doing your family and friends a favor by not putting chemical fumes in the air.

Smelly chemical cleaners leave behind a film which can make a person ill, even if they're not the one using them. Second-hand cleaning chemicals, perfumed detergents and fabric softeners can be compared to second-hand smoke – they affect others too.

Most modern cleaning formulas are concoctions of chemicals, many of which are toxic. Furthermore, almost all of them have added synthetic fragrances derived from petroleum, including known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions, according to a report by the Committee on Science & Technology.

These cleaners have been banned from my house by my chemically-sensitive partner, and replaced with non-toxic cleaning supplies, some which were our grandmothers' favorites and others new to the market, such as Enviro-One Green Cleaner which can be used for everything from brushing your teeth to doing your laundry.

When our neighbors use fabric softener sheets in their dryer, which then exhausts into the neighborhood air, my partner reacts with a headache and dizziness. You just have to look at the ingredients in fabric softener to understand why.

      What's In Those Dryer Sheets?

Benzyl Acetate:  Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol:  Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol:  On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
A-Terpineol:  Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate:  A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list
Camphor:  Causes central nervous system disorders
Chloroform:  Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
Linalool:  A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
Pentane:  A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled

Since our neighbors are used to dryer sheets, we've ordered them an amazing new alternative – Static Eliminator™ woven sheets, which take static cling out, and soften fabric without any toxic chemicals. Since we line dry our clothes, we reach for the baking soda and vinegar instead.

Natural Solutions

Let's start with laundry. If you're concerned with static cling, you don't need to use dryer sheets that clog up your lint filter and your neighbor's lungs. Just add about one-fourth cup of plain vinegar to your rinse cycle and static cling will be a thing of the past.

If you want your natural fiber clothing to be softer, just add some baking soda to your wash. It's also a great deodorizer in the laundry, as well as in the refrigerator. A little on a sponge makes a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser to wash dishes, the surface of your stove and the inside of your oven. For baked-on goo, just sprinkle some baking soda and hot water on the mess, leave overnight, and wipe off with a scrub sponge in the morning.

According to the Hawaii Department of Health's "Alternatives to Household Hazardous Products," the problem is that "detergents are derived from scarce petroleum, are non-biodegradable and usually contain chemical additives such as fragrances and colors. Detergents cause more child poisonings than any other household product. Automatic dishwashing powders contain high concentrations of phosphates which, when released into streams and storm drains, kill fish and other aquatic life."

For a non-toxic, biodegradable, fragrance-free dish soap, Seventh Generation now makes a Free & Clear version for the sink and automatic dishwasher. Or you can use the old favorites, Borax or baking soda, which work especially well in hard water because of their alkalinity.

There are now many fragrance-free, chemical-free laundry detergents available. Borax works great as a laundry soap on its own as well as to boost brands such as Country Save and Seventh Generation. They're now available in more and more supermarkets as well as health food stores. Or opt out of laundry soap altogether by using Laundry Disks or natural "Soap Nuts." Don't be fooled by national detergent brands that say they are "unscented." They usually contain masking fragrance that can be just as irritating to your skin, lungs and nervous system.

To kill mold, our favorites are vinegar, Borax, Bon Ami cleanser, or the strong hydrogen peroxide solution in Ecover Bleach, available at our local health food store.

To clean windows, just a small amount of vinegar and a squeeze of dish soap in a bucket of water lets you replace those blue, ammonia-based window cleaners.

Opt For Fresh Air

We're lucky we live in Hawaii when we have a stinky mess. We don't need air fresheners when we have tradewinds blowing in our open windows 24-hours a day. But for those of you who can't always leave the windows open, turn on the exhaust fan, put out a bowl of baking soda, vinegar or organically grown flowers - but think twice before reaching for commercial air freshener.

Last fall, a group of environmental organizations -- the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National Center for Healthy Housing -- asked the federal government to start regulating air fresheners. Scientific studies show they contain harmful chemicals linked to asthma, developmental problems in babies, and cancer in laboratory animals, according to the petition sent to two federal agencies.

The environmental groups complained that in houses, offices and restrooms, Americans suffer significant exposure "to a veritable cocktail of dangerous and potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. In cases of mold and damp indoor environments, air fresheners may hide an indicator of potentially serious health threats to the respiratory system."

One inventive alternative developed by a chemically sensitive individual to freshen the air and reduce mold is the Hygenairer device, which fans out a small amount of citrus seed extract into the room. Since mold can be a huge problem in humid areas, we put one in our bathroom as well as our closet.

When in doubt for any cleaning task, use those non-toxic standbys of your grandmother or experiment with the latest and greatest "green" alternatives that we're lucky to see enter the marketplace.

 Enviro-One Multi-Use Green Cleaner
Try Enviro-One Green Cleaner and
Never Use Chemical Cleaners Again!

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