By Nick Turenne
Ever stop to think about why household cleaners smell so unbearably strong? What about those hazardous warning labels?
Did you know that using these cleaners can result in your indoor air quality being 3 times more toxic than the air outside?
According to a study conducted by Environmental Defence, using common household cleaners is proven to raise levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in your home.
What are VOCs?
Volatile Organic Compounds are a group of carbon-based chemicals that emanate off everything from paint, to wood finishes, to cigarette smoke, to cleaning products. Some compounds you may have heard of include formaldehyde or acetone. According to the report, these chemicals "are linked to respiratory problems, including asthma" (1).
Here are just a few of the recorded long-term side effects to VOC exposure:
- Irritation to eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.
- Onset of skin conditions.
- Exacerbation of asthma.
- Respiratory issues.
- Cancer (linked to carcinogenic compounds including formaldehyde).
The Environmental Defence Study
In a 2015 study of 14 volunteered Canadian homes, Environmental Defence found that "air quality decreased considerably by simply cleaning with conventional products" (2). Two air samples were taken during the study to measure VOCs: one on the day prior to cleaning and one on cleaning day.
Of the 14 households:
- 9 used conventional cleaners.
- 3 used certified non-toxic cleaners that disclosed all ingredients.
- 2 used cleaners that claimed to be natural but did not fully disclose ingredients (referred to as 'greenwashing').
What were the Findings?
- Homes using conventional cleaners saw VOC levels rise on average by 120%.
- Homes using 'greenwashing' cleaners saw VOC levels rise on average by 100%.
- Homes using certified non-toxic cleaners saw VOC levels rise on average by 35%.
The study demonstrates that by using non-toxic cleaners from brands that are completely transparent about their ingredients, you can reduce the VOC levels in your home by 85% compared to when using conventional cleaners.
What Can I Do?
While government action is needed to regulate VOC concentration limits in cleaning products, there are other, more immediate ways you can take steps to reduce your risk and exposure to these chemicals. There are many transparent brands that offer effective, non-toxic cleaning alternatives that can be found at terra20.
Here are some of the handy tools we offer to help you improve the air quality in your home:
- Banned Ingredients: our vetting process includes screening for 15 banned ingredients found in conventional cleaners as well as personal care and cosmetics products known to be hazardous.
- Free of Harmful Chemicals Icon: in addition to the 15 banned ingredients, we screen for an additional 12 ingredients that we believe may be harmful to human health. Products free of all 27 ingredients are labeled with this icon.
- The ecobar: terra20's exclusive ecobar line provides cleaning products that are safe and effective. From bathroom, to kitchen, to laundry, to general cleaners, the ecobar has everything you need to make your home a little healthier. In addition to improving the air quality in your home, the ecobar reduces your environmental impact as all products are refillable!
You can trust that we've put in our due diligence to ensure that the cleaners on our shelves are safer for both people and the planet. Visit a store or check out our online selection to learn more about how easy it is to find non-toxic cleaners!
(1) Environmental Defence. “The Dirty Truth: How Toxic Cleaning Products are Putting Canadians At Risk”. Page 4.
(2)Environmental Defence. “The Dirty Truth: How Toxic Cleaning Products are Putting Canadians At Risk”. Page 4.