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A friend of mine recently bought an aquarium, three goldfish, and an angelfish. He proudly set up the tank in a corner of his living room for all to see. Last time I visited I noticed the fish were gone.

A friend of mine recently bought an aquarium, three goldfish, and an angelfish. He proudly set up the tank in a corner of his living room for all to see. Last time I visited I noticed the fish were gone.

“What happened to your fish?” I asked.

“Oh, they died,” he replied with a sheepish grin. “I was cleaning the tank glass with a window cleaner and forgot the tank lid was off. I must have sprayed some cleaner into the tank. The fish went belly up.”

I was amazed to hear that a few sprays of glass cleaner could result in such damage. My friend’s experience led me consider the potential harmful effects household cleaners have on our bodies and on the environment.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

In Canada, manufacturers of household cleaners are not required to display ingredients on their labels. But common cleaning products may contain such harmful ingredients as bleach, ammonia, phosphates, or strong abrasives. For more information about a product, search the Internet and locate its Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The MSDS lists the chemicals contained within a product and the health effects of each. For products in the workplace, manufacturers and distributors within Canada are required to include MSDSs when shipping their products, and companies need to keep MSDSs on file for workers. Although MSDSs give you more information than many labels provide, not all ingredients may be listed - only those ingredients that could cause long-term health effects.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives

As an alternative to harmful cleaning products, a number of eco-friendly cleaning products are available. Many are excellent to use if you’re not interested in making your own. Most manufacturers of these products voluntarily list all ingredients on their labels, and many list what they don’t contain, such as harmful phosphates, petroleum-based solvents, and caustics.

Taking Care

Any chemical can pose a health problem if the exposure is great enough, especially if it’s swallowed, so take care by wearing rubber gloves, ventilating well, and keeping cleaners out of reach of children.

Becoming a green consumer involves research: learning about the dangers of harmful cleaners and finding alternatives that work best for you. Cleaning green means becoming aware of the detrimental effects cleaning products can have on you and the environment.

Although my fish-loving friend learned about the dangers of cleaning products the hard way, he did make an important step toward becoming a green consumer: the next day he switched to vinegar and water as a glass cleaner. He then went out and bought four new fish.
Choose your household cleaners wisely&and start cleaning green.

Find Out More

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at ccohs.ca and the National Institutes of Health at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/ provide access to MSDS databases. As well, find valuable information on chemicals to avoid and their adverse effects at leas.ca, the website of the award-winning Labour Environmental Alliance Society, specifically their online booklet Cleaners and Toxins.

Make Your Own

Clean windows - Combine in spray bottle 1/3 cup (75 ml) vinegar for every 4 cups (1 litre) water.

Unclog drains - Pour 1/2 cup (125 g) baking soda down the drain and add 1 cup (250 ml) vinegar. Cover drain and wait a few minutes. Rinse with boiling water.

Scrub the tub - Mix 1-1/2 cups (375 g) baking soda, 1/2 cup (125 ml) liquid soap, 1/2 cup (125 ml) water, and 2 tbsp (30 ml) vinegar. Apply, scrub, and wipe.

Scour pots and pans - Make a paste of equal parts salt and water and rub.

Clean kitchen surfaces - Use baking soda on nonscratch surfaces and vinegar and water mixture on all others.

PDF Table of Top 6 Toxic Cleaning Pproducts

Source: cbc.ca/consumers/consumertips/tips_greenclean.html.

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