Be Earthwise


Chemical free image

Can cleanliness be next to godliness if we don’t take the mean out of clean?
Purchase and use toxic-free household cleaning supplies.

The Facts

Cleaning detergents, antibacterial cleaning agents and chemical fragrances people use day to day leave residue on every surface we touch: floors, furniture and countertops. They simultaneously create toxic fumes we breathe, and irritants that get absorbed by the skin and accumulate in our fat cells. The toxins in cleaners literally become us. And they stay in our bodies far longer than they remain on the surfaces we clean. There’s more. The toxic residue from cleaning our homes is not necessarily removed by municipal waste water treatment or septic systems and can migrate back into the water ways that feed fish and other marine life and the water sources that provide our drinking water.  Going full circle, the affected marine life can find their way onto our dinner plates and the affected water can end up in our drinking water glasses. What goes around comes around. In short, we are what we breathe, drink and eat.

A 15 year study presented at the Toronto Indoor Air Conference of 1990 concluded that stay-at-home moms had a 54% higher death rate from cancer than those who worked outside the home because of a higher rate of exposure to toxic chemicals in common household products. As of 2015 there were approximately 84,000 chemicals on the market and less than 1% have been tested.


Regulatory Agencies

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is supposed to regulate chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk to the environment and human health but the federal government does not regulate the chemicals in household cleaning supplies unless EPA demands it.      

The 2016 amendment to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals through a “pre-manufacture notification” process, which requests the chemical industry to voluntarily provide information about the pollution prevention attributes of the new chemical. Funding comes from industry and is limited by the EPA’s budget which the current federal administration seeks to slash, jeopardizing this initiative with it.

Poison control center responses reveal that in 2015 of the 2.2 million poison exposures reported, 93% (or 2,046,000) human exposures occurred at home; 7.6% (or 167,200) incidents involved cleaning supplies and 3.3% (or 72,600 incidents) involved pesticides. 246,400 children under 6 accounted for 11.2% of the poison exposures involving cleaning supplies, while 118,800 adults age 20 and over accounted for 5.4%. Small exposures in children can result in greater harm because children are not fully developed.


What can we do?

Change that results in safe choices requires citizen/consumers to take action.  

Brilliant product marketing campaigns have convinced Americans to eliminate all signs of dirt, bacteria, odor and weeds from our lives using toxic cleaning practices. Paradoxically, these extreme measures actually render our air, our water, the soil that grows our food and our health more vulnerable. Take the environment, you and your loved ones out of harm’s way; purchase toxic-free cleaning products.

Learn more about where to find toxic-free products and how to make your own cleaning products.

State Laws, LWV and Citizen Action

State law matters: As mentioned earlier, the current proposed federal budget slashes the EPA’s funding which jeopardizes consumer protection intended by the 2016 amendment to TSCA. Look instead to your state government to do its job. Under the amended TSCA, states can act on any chemical or particular uses or risks from a chemical that the EPA has not yet addressed, including authority to address local environmental concerns related to air, water, waste treatment and disposal. States can partner with the federal government on enforcement when state and federal requirements are identical.  The Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (ICCS) whose members include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington

Citizen action. The League of Women Voters addresses issues relating to commercial impacts on the environment and human health. Join the state League or a local chapter of the League to work with others on the topic of interest to you and vote with your voice.                         

Or, on your own, write to, and visit with your elected representatives: ask them to support budgets and legislative policies that protect the environment and human health. Topics for citizen action include: full disclosure of chemical ingredients on product labels and government disclosure of the environmental and human health impacts from cleaning products. Beyond your personal use of cleaning products, take notice of toxic chemicals that end up in public spaces. To improve awareness, take notes and take photos. Report objective findings to your elected representatives and the local health department; and request that they take all steps necessary to prevent harmful chemicals from being released into the environment.

What issues do you want to learn more about? What citizen solutions have you found to be most successful? Write to us at:

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