Another goal of green cleaning might be to reduce the amount of chemicals emitted into the environment during the production and packaging of household cleaning products. In order to do this, one would need to do research on the processes involved in the manufacturing of the ingredients used for house cleaning supplies. For example, alcohol ethoxylates, commonly used in green cleaning products as a surfactant, are assumed to be safe for humans based on recent testing. 1,4 dioxane however, is classified by the IARC as a probable human carcinogen. 1,4 dioxane is released during the manufacturing process of alcohol ethoxylates.
This naturally includes our food supply. The larger the animal, the more of the above mentioned compounds they will absorb, both from living in an environment polluted by these chemicals and consuming smaller animals which have also absorbed them. That is why you hear people talking about mercury and tuna. It is a large ocean fish which eats smaller fish. If you would like to learn about an example of bio-accumulation in humans, look up the expression, 'Mad as a hatter'.
“Persistent” is a term used to identify the amount of time it takes for a chemical to biodegrade when it's exposed to the environment. For example, pure soap takes about 16 hours to degrade to half of its original potency, it will take another 16 hours to break down to a quarter, another 16 to break down to an eighth, so after 2 days, 88% of the soap will be broken down into carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sodium. Triclosan, an ingredient commonly used as an antibacterial agent in many soaps and creams, has a half-life of about 18 months. That means it will take about 4.5 YEARS to break down into the same simple elements.
So, how is green cleaning related to all of this?
Walking through the local department store, one might be fascinated by the amount of 'green cleaning' products which we find on the shelves these days. “It's just a fad”, I've heard some people say, but is it?
As we hear more news about greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, unusual migration of aquatic life and extreme weather events, we are forced to wonder how the way we treat the environment affects the world around us.
Many of the harmful substances found in conventional residential cleaning products are “bio-accumulative”. This means that they are absorbed by our bodies faster than they can be eliminated. As they get washed into the soil and water around us, they also get absorbed by the animals and plants living in those environments.
One objective of green cleaning might be to attempt to use products and procedures which eliminate the use of compounds that take a long time to break down into the more simple elements. The idea is to lower the risk of health related issues associated with long term use of these chemicals. Persistent cleaning products are usually also bio-accumulative and are stored in the fat cells of our bodies and may change the genetic make-up of these cells. If you would like to read about the health effects of some of the compounds which can be found in your conventional house cleaning products, please visit our page, entitled: Why Green Cleaning?
Researching the manufacturing process on all of the ingredients in your cleaning products can be a time consuming task. Over the next couple of months, Saltaire House Cleaning will be doing some of that research for you. Please feel free to come back often, as new information regarding green cleaning is added regularly.