A Healthier, Cleaner Living Environment

One does not have to wait until Spring to open up the windows, blow away the cobwebs and give your place - be it a room, house, shed, home on wheels or apartment - a Spring clean / a fresh start.

Before you make a start, do not be complacent about those common consumer cleaning products marketed as ‘green', 'all-natural', 'non-toxic', and ‘organic’. Professor Steinemann , Professor of Civil Engineering and Chair of Sustainable Cities at Melbourne University in Australia, outlines in her article “Volatile Emissions from Common Consumer Products”, her investigation and comparative studies of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 37 different products, such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products, including those with certifications and claims of 'green' and 'organic'. Both fragranced and fragrance-free products were tested. The study, published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health found 156 different VOCs emitted from the 37 products, with an average of 15 VOCs per product. Of these 156 VOCs, 42 are classified as toxic or hazardous under US federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these chemicals.

Strangely, most of our exposure to air pollutants occurs indoors from products such as air fresheners, detergents, all-purpose cleaning products etc., and yet, our indoor air environments are unregulated and unmonitored. Some or most of these products emit a range of compounds that are not disclosed to consumers – that is manufacturers of most consumer products (laundry, cleaning, air fresheners and more) do not need to list all ingredients or the presence of a fragrance in the product and yet, these could harm human health and air quality.

We tend to believe all the “green wash” advertising and choose those products with claims such as organic, green, natural, but unfortunately these claims are never tested! And, to think that these products are commonly used everywhere – schools, hospitals, aged care, child care, workplaces, hotels, shopping centres …
Well, it’s back to the much cheaper basic old-fashioned cleaning products of baking soda and vinegar for me.

Jan Couper M.Ed.; M.Env.
Sustainability and Resilience Strategist

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