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Clean Home, Clear Conscience

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Until cheap, petroleum-based synthetics came along, all detergents were made from vegetable fats such as coconut oil. "Green cleaners including soaps, fabric softeners, laundry or dish detergents and all-purpose, glass, tile and toilet bowl cleaners are still made from plant oils.

Until cheap, petroleum-based synthetics came along, all detergents were made from vegetable fats such as coconut oil. "Green" cleaners including soaps, fabric softeners, laundry or dish detergents and all-purpose, glass, tile and toilet bowl cleaners are still made from plant oils.

Vegetable fats are renewable resources. They avoid the environmental and health risks associated with petroleum production, transport and refining. Green cleaners also rely on enzymes, vinegars, minerals and other benign natural ingredients. Independent lab tests have shown that these natural products perform as well as conventional brands and at comparable costs per use.

If every Canadian household replaced one bottle of standard liquid detergent with a vegetable oil dish soap or laundry detergent, it would save enough oil to heat 30,000 homes for a full year. Avoid detergents containing unnecessary additives such as "optical brighteners," perfumes and nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) and ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA), a skin and mucous membrane irritant that leads to allergies, asthma and skin rashes. These chemicals are used in processing to pull metal filings out of the product. The metal is removed, but the chemicals remain. NTA and EDTA aren't readily biodegradable. They get into lakes and streams, thereby entering the food chain and the environmental impacts are unknown.

Research indicates that organically grown vegetables and fruits contain more beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals than conventionally grown produce. When you can't buy organic, use a produce "wash." This will remove 90 to 95 percent of all waxes and pesticide residues, which is three times more effective than washing with water alone.

When purchasing groceries, avoid additives. They come in all shapes and sizes and go by many different names, but share one thing in common they're chemicals your body doesn't need! Common additives include artificial colours, sodium nitrite and nitrate, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), saccharin sulfites (especially sodium bisulfite), sulfur dioxide, BVO (brominated vegetable oil), glycerin, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), THBQ (tertbutylhydroquinone), MSG (monosodium glutamate), sugars (sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup), artificial flavorings, propyl gallate, EDTA, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, gums and caffeine.

Clearing the Air

Some health remedies may be as simple as keeping lids tightly secured on paint and solvent cans or changing the filtres on an air-handling system. Opt for regular cleaning of the duct work, especially if the home is older or there has been new construction in the area. Encourage a constant air flow in the case of new carpet, draperies or furniture. Off-gases from new carpet will often dissipate over a three to 12 month period. Keeping the humidity regulated is also effective. Molds can't grow when the humidity is maintained between 30 and 50 per cent.

Unwanted Guests

Dust mites are the single most prominent allergen found in the home, causing 25 percent or more of all allergies. Doctors have estimated that up to half of all cases of childhood asthma are traceable to, or worsened by, the victims' exposure to dust mites. To discourage mites:

  • Use "barrier cloths" which encase mattresses and pillows (shown to cut bedroom mite infestation by 90 percent).
  • Avoid hanging curtains next to the bed (and certainly don't drape a canopy over the bed).
  • Wash pillow cases, blankets and sheets in hot water every two weeks.
  • Vacuum regularly.
  • If needed, use a dehumidifier to keep room humidity below 50 percent (lowers mites' ability to reproduce).
  • Replace wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom with hardwood floors (use throw rugs that can be washed regularly).
  • Replace upholstered furniture with wood or leather.
  • Replace pillows regularly (one researcher has estimated as much as 10 percent of the weight of a six-year-old pillow is made up of skin particles, mites, mite residue and mold).
  • Filtre your bedroom's air using a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaner.
  • Wash your cat or dog every two weeks or so to limit dander. Don't let your pet sleep in your bedroom and definitely not on your bed.
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