Many people don’t realize that pets are vulnerable to health hazards associated with traditional house cleaning products. Green cleaning is healthier for your whole family, including your pets.
Click on the thumbnail below to read more about pets and house cleaning products and learn some green cleaning tips and green pet care tips to help protect your furry friends.
Many cleaning products are proven to contain harmful ingredients.
Science links chemicals in common household products, especially cleaning products, with health problems ranging from mild to severe and acute to chronic. Some chemicals are even linked to fatal diseases in humans. Pets are among the populations that are most vulnerable to these toxins. We don’t mean to scare you, but what’s under your kitchen sink may deserve a closer look.
Close to the problem
Pets spend a lot of time hanging out on the floor. They sleep there, they guard their people there, and they scavenge for morsels of food there.
Chemical residues and vapors also hang out on the floor. Your floor cleaner, as well as chemical over-sprays from pesticides, all-purpose cleaners, de-greasers and polishes all find their way to the floor and concentrate there. Pets can be exposed to toxins in these chemicals through inhalation, vapor absorption, dermal contact and ingestion.
Dogs, cats and other domestic animals are smaller than adults, often by a great deal. Proportionately, the same exposure to a toxic household chemical is much stronger in an animal than in an adult. Dogs especially have greater exposure because they are so eager to lick the floor to clean up people-food crumbs and sticky spills. We don’t think about our floor cleaners because we don’t eat off the floor. But we all know someone who does…
Another factor that is easily overlooked is the frequency of exposure. We catch a whiff of glass cleaner as we spray, we sneeze, it tickles for a while and we forget it. But cleaning is a habitual task. Every few days, every week, every two weeks. Whatever the frequency – little exposures, over time, amount to bigger risks. Some chemicals are not as easily purged by the organs as others. These tend to accumulate in the body.
We don't know the effects on pets
There is little research to identify the specific risks to pets.
Over 80,000 high production volume synthetic chemicals have been introduced in the last 30 or 40 years. Simultaneously, a dramatic increase in the diagnoses of asthma, allergies, developmental disorders, behavioral disorders, blood disorders and cancers. An estimated 80% of these have not been researched for harmful effects. Fewer still have been studied for their effects on pets. But common sense suggests that preventive measures can help our pets enjoy long and healthy lives.
Understanding the potential dangers associated with several leading categories of cleaners is the first step to reducing health risks for every member of your family, including the furry ones.
Certain types of cleaning agents should be treated with caution
…for everyone’s benefit. Three groups in particular are of concern for humans and deserve attention where pets are concerned:
1. Disinfectants – Disinfectants are pesticides. Because they are fat-soluble, they are difficult to eliminate from the body. Many pesticides include ingredients which are carcinogens, neurotoxins and hormone disruptors.
2. Detergents and degreasers – Many contain organochlorines, also difficult for the body to purge, which are carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
3. Air fresheners – Phthalates are commonly used as fragrance carriers in air fresheners. Phthalates are known to cause hormonal abnormalities, thyroid disorders, birth defects and reproductive problems.
One degreaser and all-purpose cleaner you should never use around pets:
Solvents, which are in many household cleaners (to cut grease, for example) can cause a broad range of neurological damage, from as mild as headaches to as serious as dementia? One example is 2-butoxyethanol (also known as 2-butyl). It is in over 200 household products that families have trusted for years, frequently to clean kitchen floors. Yet the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) has identified 2-butyl as having potential effects on blood, the central nervous system, kidneys and liver. You may not want your pets to hang out on a floor contaminated with this chemical residue. What about the potential risks of all the products you use around pets? Further, what might the risks of combined exposures be?
Traditional cleaning products "dirty" the home, as far as asthma or allergy sufferers are concerned.
The Cleaning Contradiction
Air Fresheners & Fragranced Cleaners
A common misconception about cleaning products is that unless the smell of the cleaning product is evident, the home is not clean. Consumers have been trained by marketers of cleaning products for generations that a clean smell equals a clean home. With product fragrances to evoke memories of the ocean, the mountains, the pines, and even just plain “original” we are cued to put fragrance in the perception of a clean home.
Fragrances in perfumes, body care products, cleaning products and air fresheners are suspended in the air by chemical additives designed to help them linger in the air. These chemicals are then at nose level and easily inhaled.
De-greasers & Solvents
Solvents put off strong vapors and are prone to absorption through the lungs or skin. Organic solvents irritate the respiratory track and have been linked to bronchial asthma in occupational studies.
An Australian study which links environmental factors in the home with childhood asthma identified the presence of solvents as a contributing factor and suggested the highest asthma risk are associated with benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene.
Bleach & Ammonia
Bleach and ammonia are corrosive to the lungs. Asthma and allergy sufferers have compromised respiratory function and these corrosives will exacerbate that weakness. Avoid using bleach and ammonia for this and many other reasons.
One of the simplest things you can do to help keep the impact of cleaning to a minimum is to be aware that over-spray broadcasts contaminants which affect every member of the family, not just the asthma or allergy sufferer. Spray cleaning solutions into your cloth, not on the surface you are cleaning to avoid unnecessary disbursement of contaminants indoors.
Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted as gases suspending themselves in the air. VOCs include an array of chemicals, some of which may have short and long term adverse health effects. VOCs commonly are present in perfumes, air fresheners, disinfectants and deodorizers. These compounds pose a variety of human health hazards and collectively are thought to be reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, liver toxins and carcinogens. But the asthma or allergy sufferer only cares that VOCs help toxins in cleaning products become easier to inhale.
The basic ingredients for natural cleaning products might already be in your pantry:
DISTILLED WHITE VINEGAR – good for dissolving grease, dirt, soap, scum and mineral deposits. Also absorbs odors.
BAKING SODA – an effective replacement for harsh scouring powders. Mildly abrasive and naturally deodorizing.
BORAX – good for cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing.
LEMON JUICE – cuts grease, freshens and deodorizes, fights household bacteria.
WATER – distilled is best, but tap is fine.
CASTILE SOAP – all-purpose cleaner for around th