How to Create a Safe and Nontoxic Home

By Rae Ann Dougherty, CWCC Member

While much attention is paid to outdoor air pollution, we spend the vast majority of our time (87%) indoors, and the EPA has found that air pollution can be 2-5 times higher inside the home than outside. Much of this is due to the chemicals we use. Consider taking a few steps to improve the air quality in your home and create a healthier environment for you and your family.

Common Misconceptions
Most people believe that chemicals in consumer products are somehow “safety tested” before being placed on store shelves, or before being introduced into the workplace. Unfortunately, of the estimated 85,000 chemicals in the U.S. marketplace, only a small fraction has been tested for their chronic impacts to human health. That “chemical smell” many of us associate with cleaning products could make you sick and does not necessarily make the product more effective.

Toxins and Children
Children are particularly susceptible to toxins in the home for several reasons. They do not know what to avoid, they breathe more often and more deeply, and they are often crawling or playing on the floor and putting hands in their mouths. Furthermore, their bodies are just developing, and certain chemicals may interfere with the development of their neurological, endocrine and immune systems.

Respiratory Risks
Asthma, the most serious chronic childhood disease, increased 160% in preschool children between 1980 and 1994. A European study covering 10 countries showed that the regular use of cleaning sprays was linked to a 30-50% increase in asthma risk.

Most Common Toxins
Some commonly found substances in household cleaners that should be avoided include:

*Petroleum- frequently found in conventional cleansers and soaps

*Alkyphenol ethoxylates- used in detergents, it disrupts the natural balance of hormones in the body

*Butyl cellosolve- a common degreaser that when inhaled, can cause nausea, headaches and more serious complications

*Synthetic (artificial) fragrances- most of these chemical compounds can interfere with breathing and cause irritation, and some implement phthalates, which have been found as a carcinogen in lab tests

*Chlorine bleach- used for whitening and sanitizing, this chemical is highly poisonous and irritating. If poured into plumbing, chlorine bleach will form organochlorines, which are toxic and carcinogenic. When mixed with ammonia, a commonly found cleaning agent, chlorine becomes toxic chlorine gas.

*Triclosan- found in most anti-bacterial soaps, triclosan may cause resistant strains of bacteria and weaken immune systems, and studies have shown anti-bacterial soap to be no more effective than regular soap at killing germs.

What to Choose
As a general rule, avoid household chemicals that contain ingredients you don’t know or understand. Find a company you trust that produces green cleaning products. Use products that are green-certified with a reputable third party like EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) certification under their Safer Chemistry Program. Natural products, in many cases, are much more effective than synthetic chemicals, and do not damage the surfaces you are trying to clean.

© 2011 by Rae Ann Dougherty, owner of Green Cleaning Products LLC.

Rae Ann Dougherty, an immediate past member of the CWCC Board of Directors, is a professional in the environmental field for the past 35 years and has served as the environmental and sustainability leader in multiple large multinational corporations.  Rae Ann is now working to provide solutions to residential and commercial entities with a line of a choice of products.  These products are non-toxic, have zero impact on the environment, and are safe. No more greenwashing as these are certified by a third party such as the US EPA.  Learn more at She can be reached at (720) 746-0803 or

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