Today I’m kicking off a new feature on Wednesdays – How Not To Be Green. Instead of pointing out healthy things to do, once a week I’ll spotlight one way you can hurt yourself, your family, and the environment.
Of course, I don’t want you to hurt yourself. So ultimately, Wednesdays are all about showing you what you should avoid.
One product that will cause a lot of harm is bleach. Readily available at stores – and in many cleaning products – bleach seems like it should be a good thing. It sanitizes and disinfects! It removes stains! It purifies water! It takes odors away!
A little history
Aside from the past century or so, homemakers cleaned without bleach. Antibacterial cleaners weren’t necessary – or even available – for the home. Bleach entered the cleaning scene in 1913.
Since World War II, more than 80,000 chemicals have been manufactured, sold … and more than 80 percent have never been tested for toxicity. 1 According to the EPA, “Most Americans would assume that basic toxicity testing is available and that all chemicals in commerce today are safe. A 1998 EPA study found that this is not a prudent assumption.” 2
When the Environmental Protection Agency warns Americans to not assume that cleaning products are safe, you know something is wrong. And it’s easy to believe when 64,000 chemicals haven’t even been tested for safety.
Today, consumers can get a general idea of a cleaning product’s toxicity by EPA-regulated labels. “Danger” indicates the highest hazard, “Warning” indicates a moderate hazard, and “Caution” indicates the lowest hazard. The labeling severities are based on the amount of product needed to kill a person – or cause serious harm to eyes or skin. 3
Fortunately, there are safe products to use while disinfecting. Skip the bleach. Hydrogen peroxide is my personal favorite. White vinegar can be used as an antibacterial cleaner – lemon juice can, too. The essential oils of lavender, peppermint, rosemary all have antibacterial properties.
While cleaning with white vinegar or lemon juice is very easy, whenever I need to know that something is disinfected, I choose hydrogen peroxide – strictly as my personal choice. But if you don’t want to be green (or safe or healthy), use lots and lots of bleach.
What do you use as a bleach substitute?
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