How can you tell if “green” cleaning products are really safer?
You’ve probably seen, or even used, cleaning products, drain cleaners, and personal care products that make claims of being environmentally friendly, earth friendly, eco friendly, or some other benefit to the user and the planet. Unfortunately, not every “green” product is as friendly as another.
Back in 1960, the U.S. government passed the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, which required hazardous and potentially dangerous substances packaged for home use to have warning labels.
This sounds helpful, but at the same time, it allowed companies not to reveal dangerous ingredients in household products unless harmful side effects appeared immediately after improper use.
As an example, chlorine bleach must thus be labeled “poisonous” if swallowed, but not as hazardous when disposed.
Chlorine bleach, also known as sodium hyperchlorite, is toxic to fish and other aquatic life if it makes its way to a body of water. When bleach is mixed with ammonia, another chemical found in many cleaning products, highly toxic chloramines gas is created. Mix bleach with common toilet-bowl cleaners and you can create chlorine gas, which is also highly poisonous.
Chlorine is also the base compound found in organochlorines, which were used to develop several pesticides (including DDT, endrin, and chlordane) that are now banned because of their persistence in the environment, and possible linkage to cancer.
So which of the new so-called “green” products are truly safe for the environment and less toxic or non-toxic for the homeowner?
The answer is twofold:
1.) Ideally, homeowners can make most of their own cleaning products using safer, non-toxic ingredients found at their local department store, grocery store, or pharmacy. One easy example is using undiluted white vinegar as a drain cleaner instead of the strong acidic or basic commercial drain cleaners sold at stores. There are homemade recipes for virtually every household cleaner and polish.
2.) The second, but less preferred alternative is to buy products that have been proven to be safer than the common commercial products. This can be done by purchasing products that have achieved the United States Protection Agency (USEPA) Design for the Environment (DFE) program.
In this program, companies apply to the USEPA for partnership and prove their products meet EPA standards, which are that the ingredients used are the safest in the class of chemicals used.
This does not mean they are the safest product available – just that they are the safest in their class.
One web site with even more stringent standards requiring products that not only are non-toxic and non-corrosive, but free from carcinogens (as determined by five different major agencies), mutagens (as determined by the United Nations) and truly biodegradable (as certified by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) is Green Seal.
We can all make a difference in the environment by reducing the amount of toxins we use in our own homes.
Use cleaners with safe chemical compositions
Many of the commercial cleaning products available to homeowners today are made up of dangerous chemicals with formulas that would impress any chemical engineer. Examples of these include oven cleaners and toilet cleaners.
Since industries are heavily regulated, the handling of many of these same hazardous chemicals in an industrial setting would require some or all of the following:
- heavy-duty safety precautions
- plenty of personal protective clothing
- chemical resistant gloves
- safety goggles
- splash-proof clothing
- chemical resistant boots
- respiratory protection
Ironically, homeowners are not regulated in their use of these dangerous chemicals. However, they are expected by the manufacturers to read the all of the safety instructions, buy the protective equipment, and carefully handle these harsh chemicals. And the manufacturers think they will do all of this without any training.
For your own protection, we highly recommend you buy the safer green products that are becoming more available every day. The chemical composition varies for many of these hazardous household products used for cleaning, and the known health effects of exposing ourselves to these dangerous chemicals can be dramatic.
There are alternative cleaners: “green clean” products you can buy in the store; and home made cleaners you can make yourself.
Whether you make your own homemade cleaning products or buy green products that are safer, you will be ensuring that you and your family are not exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Are Your pets in danger of accidental poisoning from these common chemicals
There are many poisons in our homes, and some of them might surprise you.
Antifreeze for cars is highly toxic to humans and pets, as it it’s chemical composition is primarily ethylene glycol or propylene glycol.
Ethylene glycol does not have a distinct odor, but it has a sweet taste. Propylene glycol is practically odorless and tasteless. Our digestive systems turn these two chemicals into oxalic acid, which is highly poisonous.
If ethylene glycol or propylene glycol are swallowed in large quantities (less for a small pet), they can cause serious, irreversible damage to the kidneys, nervous system, lungs and heart. If you are a pet owner, you want your home to be a safe place for your pets.
Poisonous house and garden plants, like many lilies (Lily of the Valley is very toxic), rhubarb, and poinsettia and mistletoe are very poisonous, and are another danger to our furry friends.
A much more comprehensive list of poisonous plants can be found on the Cornell web site. One of the primary poisons in the plants listed above is oxalic acid, which is also the harmful chemical our bodies produce if we swallow antifreeze, either ethylene or propylene glycol.
Rat or mouse baits contain another poison some of our pets get into, either by finding the bait and eating it directly or by eating a rodent that has already eaten the poison.
The most common ingredient is rodent bait is warfarin, a blood thinner also known as Coumadin, which is prescribed in smaller doses to thin the blood of people at risk for heart attacks, blood clots, and strokes.
The best way to keep your pets safe from these poisons is to learn which poisons are in your house and garden and either remove them from where they can be eaten or fence the animal away from the poison. To avoid possible poisoning from rodent baits, use mechanical traps instead.
In-Depth Understanding of the Best Waste Disposal Methods
Why is an in-depth understanding of the best Waste disposal methods available in each of your locations important? Options make all of the difference.
Do you know the following for each of your company’s locations:
• How many Waste Haulers are operating.
• How many of the Haulers operate Landfills.
• How many of the Landfills are certified to accept your type(s) of waste.
• What types of waste disposal methods do they offer.
• How many Haulers offer “Zero Waste” options.
• Who are the most trustworthy and cost-effective Haulers.
The answers to the above will vary by Market. Do you think the single person or small group running a self-administered Waste program is going to have this in-depth understanding? Not a chance! The in-depth understanding that a “good” 3rd Party Waste & Recycling Firm has, will not only maximize cost reductions, but will also help improve their Client’s Environmental Sustainability, as well as keep the Client in compliance with regulatory requirements.
Expertise Regarding Available Recycling Programs & Facilities
Why is the Expertise of knowing what Recycling Programs & Facilities are available at each of your locations important?
The simple answer is the more “weight” you can take out of the Waste containers, the less you pay the Haulers. The more recycling your locations do, the less waste is produced. Sounds like a simple concept, right?
The big question is, does the single person or small group running a self-administered Waste & Recycling program know all of the available recycling options in every area where they have locations? Again, not a chance! The recycling “boom” is consistently creating more and better recycling opportunities throughout the Country.
Today, there are “many” more options for recycling programs. Below are a few to get you thinking:
• Shrink Wrap
• Wood Pallets / Crates
• E-Waste (Electronic Waste)
• Universal Waste (Light Bulbs, Batteries, etc.)
• Paper / Shredding
• Food Waste / Composting
• Oil / Grease
This is a short list that just scratches the surface. There are recycling “experts” that do not know what recycling programs are being offered in all parts of the Country. So don’t think that your self-administered program is going to fare any better.
The “good” Waste & Recycling Management Firm will not only know all of the available recycling programs throughout the Country, but they will also be on the cutting edge of what new programs and facilities are planned. As a matter of fact, a “good” Management Firm will be able to “create” new recycling programs by taking a type of waste and contacting Recycling companies to figure out a way to recycle it.
The Waste Management Firm’s expertise regarding available Recycling programs & facilities will assist their Client’s in maximizing their Recycling efforts, which will significantly reduce their Waste costs. This will also significantly improve the Client’s Environmental Sustainability by reducing the amount of Waste going to Landfills.
Ongoing Waste & Recycling Program Oversight and Reporting
So what typically happens to a self-administered Waste & Recycling program?
Well, since Waste & Recycling is usually such a “low” priority, once an RFP or Program has been put in place, for the most part it is forgotten. There are so many other higher priorities that Waste & Recycling easily becomes an afterthought until next year or 3 years later when the next contract cycle comes up. Are you familiar with the saying “Whatever you want to manage, you have to measure”?
This applies to Waste & Recycling as well. The typical scenario in a self-administered program is that shortly after the contract / program is in place, the program guidelines become fuzzy and the process begins to breakdown. Also, if no one is keeping a consistent watch over the proverbial “hen-house” then all sorts of issues begin to arise.
The guidelines are forgotten, employees and vendors go back to the “same old same old”, and unaccounted for charges, price increases, fees, surcharges, etc. can occur.
One very valuable aspect of a “good” Waste & Recycling Management Firm like some SC waste management firms is their ability to consistently track and manage the progress of a Client’s plan.
They have the resources (manpower and technical ability) to make sure the program is meeting or exceeding its goals. Their Account Management and Customer Service departments stay in constant contact with key Corporate and location contacts to reinforce the program goals.
Their AP Department keeps an eye on all Hauler invoices to make sure no “additional” charges, price increases, fees, surcharges, etc. are ever allowed on the Client’s invoice. As well, their resources track and report all waste related information in their CRM (Customer Resource Management) tools, which they are able to use to track and manage the positive progress of the program.
Remember, “Whatever you want to manage, you have to measure”? Having a “good” Management Firm will definitely keep the program on track. They will be able to measure progress so as to keep it moving in the right direction.[Top]
Economic activity has always generated waste, but the phenomenon has clearly increased with the consumer society.
In 1510 an investigation is carried out by the authorities: the air has become unbreathable since the exploitation of coal in the city. A doctor says that the smoke produced is dangerous, that no one can stand such an odor, and that as a result people may die suddenly. Proof that pollution is already seen as a scourge that must be protected. In 1673, the foul-smelling tanneries were expelled from Paris and, a century later, laundries and dyers followed the same path.
At that time, the health and well-being of the population was still the priority. Things were reversed during the industrial revolution. With this new era where industry becomes all-powerful, we no longer care about local residents or nature. In 1774, a memorable trial began this turning point: intoxicated by the leaks of sulfuric acid escaping from the Holker factory, residents attacked the industrialist, demanding compensation and the relocation of the factory.
They are rejected because the production is considered of national interest! Industrial pollution, it is at this point that the expression appears, is perceived as the price to be paid for progress and economic development. So we stoically support the fumes.
Pollution in modern times
After 1945, the advent of the consumer society amplified the phenomenon: everyone now has the means to become a polluter on their own scale. If a few voices are raised to worry about this pollution, they are inaudible.
A series of dramas in the 1970s and 1980s forced the world opinion to open their eyes.
First in the United States, where 1969 is a dark year: in California, the beaches of Santa Barbara are soiled by the leaks of an oil platform, and in Cleveland (Ohio), the Cuyahoga River catches fire under the effect of flammable products spilled on it.
In France, it was the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz off the coast of Finistère in 1978 that raised awareness. Broadcast on television, images of thousands of birds stuck in the black mire upset the whole country. Demonstrations are improvised in the region. What will Brittany be like when I turn 20? Can we read on a sign brandished by a kid. Thousands of volunteers come to help the locals to clean the beaches for weeks.
Pollution has become a concern. A 1981 poll found that 47% of people considered environmental problems very important, and 42% important. But not to the point of changing their way of life. After all, the Amoco Cadiz oil spill only affected a small part of Brittany. If you are not from there, you can still think you are spared.
After Chernobyl, mentalities change
On April 26, 1986, reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in Ukraine, and a radioactive cloud covered Europe.
In France, there’s panic. In early May, they stop buying fruits and vegetables for fear of contamination. Sales of strawberries and asparagus plummet by more than 30%. Geiger counters, which measure ionizing radiation, are appearing everywhere: the Skyrock radio makes daily readings, while a journalist measures vegetables. This time, there is no longer any question of hiding behind your little finger: pollution concerns everyone.
In an attempt to limit its effects, decisions are multiplying. In 1991, Europe tackled nitrates that contaminate water in agricultural areas, and introduced the first standard for combustion engine emissions a year later. In France, the 1992 law lays down the principle of recycling. Paying attention to the environment is gradually becoming a habit: the time is over when, as in this scene from a movie, you dump your trash in nature after a picnic …
The fight against pollution integrates educational programs. Everywhere, green alternatives are developing: Japan and Germany are betting on solar energy by funding roofs covered with photovoltaic panels in 1995, and the first wind farm was established in France in 2001 in the Somme.
The ecological cause is now embodied by freshly converted people: little concerned with environmental issues at the start of his career, Commander Cousteau played a role in the media coverage of the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992. And Nicolas Hulot, first photographer and backpacker, created in 1990 the Ushuaïa Foundation – renamed since Nicolas-Hulot Foundation for nature and man.
However, the efforts made have little weight in the face of a general deteriorating situation. We realize this at the dawn of the 2000s with a new oil spill in Brittany, that of the oil tanker Erika, on December 12, 1999.
Two years earlier, the American navigator Charles J. Moore discovered that a gigantic continent of plastic waste is floating in the Pacific. There has also been a failure to manage nuclear waste, most of which has a lifespan of 100,000 years and which we do not know what to do with.
Scientific analysis of pollution
The scientific work relating to the impact of pollution on our health is increasing. In 2002, a study carried out by the cardiologist Yves Cottin proves that when the quantity of fine particles exceeds 25 micrograms per cubic meter, the number of heart attacks jumps by 161%.
Pesticides are now presented as potential serial killers. A grain farmer becomes the symbol of these dangers. A heavy user of phytosanitary products, in 2004 he inhaled toxic vapors while bending over a tank filled with herbicides and has since accumulated neurological problems. In 2007, he filed a complaint for lack of information against Monsanto, which markets the herbicide in question, Lasso, which was banned the same year. The agrochemical giant was ordered to compensate him in 2012, but appealed against this decision.
The 2000s are the years of another realization: pollution does not just harm our health, it hampers the climate. Waste management companies like Little Rock Dumpster Rental HQ try to help clean the mess, but junk removal is not enough. While the first two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, created in 1988) had gone relatively unnoticed, the third, published in 2001, is widely reported in the media. As well as the hypothesis – now proven – that climate change is anthropogenic.
Many people realized that warming was a problem during the heat wave of 2003, because it showed the weaknesses of our system in the event of an extreme episode, according to expert climatologists.[Top]