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Category: Pollution

Are All Green Products Eco-Friendly

toxic products
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.

Pollution: a daily struggle for 500 years

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.


The Situation of US landfills

The United States is the largest economy, and this is in no small part due to national consumption.

Americans are known to be big spenders in a society dominated by instant gratification and hyper-consumerism. As such we can expect a huge quantity of garbage created daily from such behavior.

Waste management and how to deal with with the problem of containing pollution is one of the nightmares facing local and state oficials.


How to improve air quality at home?

Sometimes pollution can be more predominant inside the house than outside!

What are the main sources of indoor pollution? What risks does it expose us to? What are the right actions to improve your home’s air quality?

Improving indoor air quality is a health priority

Knowing that we spend more than 80% of our time in closed places (home, work, school, transport, etc.), the condition of the air we breathe is a major factor that conditions our health. Exposure to indoor pollution can lead to various symptoms and conditions: respiratory tract irritation, headache, poisoning, etc.

What are the main sources of pollution of inside air?

Tobacco is of course the first indoor pollutant … and the easiest to act on! Then there are products used for cleaning or for improving the atmosphere (household products, interior perfumes, incense), DIY products (paints, glues, solvents, gardening products), building materials (glass wool, rock wool), products used for the manufacture of furniture (formaldehyde for example), radon, etc.

The right things to do at home to fight against indoor pollution

Regularly ventilate your home.

It is better to insulate your home, which translates into less energy expenditure. But this insulation hinders the renewal of our indoor air. It is therefore necessary to ventilate all the rooms every day by opening the windows wide for at least 10 minutes.

Even if it is cold, and even during periods of peak outdoor pollution, it is essential to ventilate in order to renew and mix the air, to dilute and remove indoor pollutants. Please note, some activities require even more ventilation: cleaning, DIY, decoration, renovation, etc.

Equip your home with a suitable ventilation system

The ventilation systems (VMC, controlled mechanical ventilation) installed in our dwellings provide general and permanent air circulation. Their installation and verification of their operation must be carried out by a specialist.

Make sure that the air inlets, grilles and exhaust vents are not blocked and clean them as often as necessary to keep them effective.

What measures should be adopted for each pollutant?

Reducing indoor pollution from tobacco

Do not smoke indoors, or even outside the window. Also force your guests to smoke outside. With 3,000 toxic substances, tobacco is the first pollutant present in homes, causing cancer by active and passive smoking, asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease, etc. Each year, some thousands of people die from second-hand smoke.

Control pollution from household products and home fragrances

Ventilate when using household products, avoid spray products, do not mix products with each other (especially with bleach), follow the instructions for use, doses and safety indications, limit the number of products you use, prefer products certified as protecting the environment.

Avoid scented candles, incense and home fragrances, major sources of indoor pollution. Also watch out for stain removers or solvents used to remove nail polish.

Reduce indoor pollution from DIY products and building materials

Many building materials (paints, glues, solvents, glazes, waxes, strippers, thinners, lacquers, etc.) emit toxic substances such as fibers or volatile organic compounds or VOCs (formaldehyde, organic solvents , glycol ethers, hydrocarbons).

When you tinker:

  • always wear the appropriate protection (filter mask, gloves, glasses),
  • close the products well after use,
  • keep them in a ventilated place and out of reach of children.

If the work takes place indoors, take regular breaks outside and ventilate. Prioritize the purchase of products that contain the least quantity and number of pollutants: read the labels, favor the eco-labels and consult the pictograms.

Please note, some new furniture (in particular agglomerated wood) gives off chemical substances for a certain time after unpacking them. Ideally, leave them for a few days in a well-ventilated place before installing them in your bedroom or living room.

Reducing indoor pollution by radon

Radon is a radioactive natural gas emitted by the soil that causes lung cancer (second cause after smoking). The presence of radon depends on the nature of the soil and the degree of containment of the site. If you live in a region with a high concentration of radon, work to increase the ventilation of your accommodation may be necessary.