Given poor government regulation, many of the cleaning products available on the market contain “everyday” carcinogens such as formaldehyde, nitrobenzene, methylene chloride, and napthelene, as well as reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Not to mention other ingredients that cause liver, kidney and brain damage, allergies and asthma. I really am a happy person–not your basic Eeyore type, but toxic cleaning products seriously get my goat. One of the best things you can do to detox your home is to create one of Annie’s simple non-toxic cleaning kits to use–most of the ingredients you probably already have on hand.
But there are a host of products, other than those used for basic cleaning, that often contain carcinogenics. This list, from Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic (New Society Publishers, 2007) by Liz Armstrong et al, cautions against 10 household products, in addition to cleaners, that you should avoid having in your house.
1. Air fresheners: Often contain napthelene and formaldehyde. Try zeolite or natural fragrances from essential oils. For more information, see Easy Greening: Air Fresheners.
2. Art supplies: Epoxy and rubber cement glues, acrylic paints and solvents, and permanent markers often contain carcinogens. For more information, see Arts and Crafts: Make it Safe.
3. Automotive supplies: Most are toxic. Keep them safely away from the house and dispose of at a hazardous waste disposal center.
4. Candles: Avoid artificially scented paraffin candles that produce combustion by-products, including soot. Beeswax only, with cotton wicks. For more on beeswax candles, see The Brilliant Beeswax Candle.
5. Carpet and upholstery shampoos: Use only wet-clean, natural ingredients. For DIY carpet cleaning, see how to Remove Stains and Pet Odors from Carpets.
6. Dry-cleaning: Choose clothes that don’t need perchlorethylene to clean them. Ask for the wet-cleaning option at you local cleaners, or seek dry-cleaners that use liquid C02 or citrus juice cleaners. For more information, see Healthy and Green Dry Cleaning.
7. Flea, tick and lice control: Avoid lindane-based pesticides. For more information, see Natural Flea and Tick Control.
8. Paints and varnishes: Always chose low- or no-VOC finishes. For more information, see Is Your Paint Making You Sick?
9. Household pesticides: Go natural. Make a Sugar Ant Hotel.
10. Microwaves: Never microwave or heat food in a plastic container. For more information about the dangers of food and plastic, see Kitchen Plastic: Easy Greening.
Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.