THIS was originally posted by our local newspaper but reinforces some of the other points being made. there are a couple book references and another website at the bottom...
Clean and greenHousehold products can be full of toxins, but there are safe and effective alternatives
By Randi Bjornstad
Published: Jan 30, 2009 06:10PM Living: Personal Life: Story
The queen of clean is at it again.
Three years ago, Eugene resident Mary Findley made news twice: first, when she invented a simple, effective and environmentally friendly cleaning mop; and again, when a book she co-wrote, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cleaning,” hit the shelves.
Now, she’s coming out with a second book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning,” which will be published in early March.
“I’ve been preaching and teaching ‘green’ for a long time, so to have an opportunity to focus a book on what I know is really rewarding,” Findley said.
Turning away from the standard cleaners on the grocery store shelves — many of which she contends contain highly toxic ingredients — can be so daunting that many people abandon the idea before they even begin, Findley said.
So she’s developed a blueprint for making the transition: start with the bathroom, move into the kitchen and then look at the rest of the house. He plan also includes information about how to buy “green” when replacing carpeting, draperies and furniture.
“The bathroom, kitchen, laundry area and garage usually have the most toxic compounds in a house,” she said. “The easiest place to start is in the smallest room in the house, with things you use on your body every day, like soap, shampoo and toothpaste.”
The obvious key is selecting products that don’t have a lot of chemical additives. For example, Findley’s favorite face soap is produced locally and consists of goat’s milk, coconut oil, olive oil and homegrown herbs.
“When I reached adulthood I suddenly developed acne, and it was so severe that I had scarring,” Findley said. “Now I believe that the chemicals in the products I was using had a lot to do with that — when I started using this soap, the acne went away, and now the scarring is disappearing, too.”
She recommends the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” cometic safety database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) for evaluating personal hygiene products. You simply enter the name of a product, ingredient or company, and the database give you a rating, from zero to 10. Zero to 2 means low hazard, 3 to 6 represent moderate hazard, and 7 to 10 is high hazard.
For example, of 1,280 mascaras rated on the Web site, only 16 scored as low hazard, based on the potential toxicity of their ingredients. The Skin Deep scores are based on safety information contained in publicly available toxicity databases, according to the Web site.
Findley’s concerns about personal and household cleaning products goes beyond what we slather on our bodies every day. She also worries about the effect the endless supply of chemicals that we use has on the environment.
She believes that “the chemicals in anti-bacterial soaps are more toxic than the germs you’re killing.” They wash down drains into the sewer system and the water supply, where, she contends, “they can’t be ‘treated’ out of the water like bacteria can, so we end up drinking, cooking with and bathing in the very same chemicals that we washed down our drains in the first place.”
She shudders at the thought of all the chlorine bleach that people use to kill germs around the house.
“Chlorine bleach — oh, my gosh, that stuff is so toxic — and plain vinegar actually is a better disinfectant,” she said. “If you mix bleach with the wrong chemicals, it becomes extremely dangerous.”
For example, bleach mixed with ammonia — an unnamed ingredient in many cleaning products — or vinegar can result in poisonous chlorine gas, according to the online Guide to Less Toxic Products of the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia (Canada).
The group’s Internet site (lesstoxicguide.ca/) quotes toxicologist Dick Irwin at Texas A&M University: “Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we are beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of (the 1900s) and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin.”
It’s a point of view Findley fervently shares.
“It’s no wonder, with all the pollutants we’re putting into our environment and then coming into contact with, that we’re seeing a lot of people who live wonderful, healthy lives getting sick with life-threatening conditions,” she said.
Even so, she is convinced that by changing our daily habits in relatively small ways, we can make a difference in our own homes, our communities and ultimately our planet.
For example, spraying cleaners onto cloths instead of into the air or directly onto hard surfaces keeps them from hanging in the air, where they can be ingested and harm delicate lung and other tissues.
Instead of chemical-laden all-purpose cleaners, many natural household substances such as baking soda and essential oils can be used to create effective and harmless cleaning products.
Ventilating the home by opening windows — even in cold weather — expels household toxins that otherwise would be breathed in by household members, although it doesn’t get rid of them. However, using houseplants that have the capability of pulling toxins out of the air, processing them and rendering them harmless, makes even more sense, Findley said.
Common houseplants such as spider plants, philodendrons and Boston ferns clear formaldehyde — a common byproduct of many modern building materials and household furnishings — from the air, she said.
Peace lily, or spathiphyllum, remove trichloroethylene, and English ivy, chrysanthemum and gerbera daisy neutralize benzene.
“Through photosynthesis, plants absorb pollutants and carbon dioxide through their leaves. Microbes surrounding the root system break down the contaminants and then emit pure oxygen,” Findley said. “Just 15 houseplants in the average-size home offer a significant reduction in the number of indoor contaminants.”
Those suggestions just scratch the surface of what’s in her new book, which contains 17 chapters plus two appendices — one for further resources and the other a stain removal guide.
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning” covers myriad topics: the toxic aspects of everyday home care; the best tools for healthful cleaning; how to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products; room-by-room green cleaning tips; healthier bedrooms; getting the big jobs done; outdoor cleaning and maintenance; storage area cleaning; washing vehicles; the laundry challenge; and cleaning with speed and efficiency.
Findley bases her recommendations on research and experience.
“I was a professional house cleaner for 12 years,” she said. “When my son got to be school age, I realized I wanted to be available when he was out of school, and cleaning allowed me to set my own schedule. It paid pretty well, and it was a skill I could take anywhere with me.”
Through the years, she honed her cleaning skills. And working for clients with disabilities or health problems awakened her interest in the relationship between home care products and health.
She even has developed her own line of cleaning tools and products, which she sells primarily through her Web site (www.goclean.com), where she also writes a regular how-to cleaning column.
Along the way, Findley found another niche in the cleaning market: teaching people who purchase high-end recreational vehicles how to clean and maintain them. She now does 50 or 60 cleaning seminars each year, mostly at RV dealerships and trade shows.
contacting mary findley
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning” will be published in March and may be preordered through local bookstores or www.amazon.com. For more information, contact Findley at:
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