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Non Toxic Cleaning:
Are Cleaning Products Used in Daycares & Schools Keeping Kids Healthy – Or Making Them Sick?

There are few places where cleanliness matters more to us than at daycare and school, where our children eat, play and, inevitably, put toys in their mouths! Because of this, teachers and daycare providers spend a lot of time, energy and money cleaning floors, tables and play surfaces with strong chemicals, in hopes of keeping sickness-causing germs at bay. Sadly, they could be doing more harm than good; the cleaning product category is, shockingly, poorly regulated and many conventional cleaning products contain dangerous and toxic chemicals that can affect the health and well-being of our children over the long term.

What You Need To Know About Cleaning Product Safety

Like many consumers, you might assume that the ingredients in the cleaning products you use have been tested for safety. Sadly, out of 62,000 chemicals in use today, only about 300 have been tested for safety. Common ingredients in cleaning products like fragrances, disinfectants (like bleach and ammonia) and preservatives have been linked to serious health issues like cancer, asthma, allergies, and endocrine disruption.

And the impact on our children is particularly worrisome. The Children’s Environmental Health Network, created to raise awareness about the environmental health risks our children face each day, highlights that children are disproportionately impacted by environmental toxins in 3 ways:

  • Because they’re little, they breathe, eat & drink 3 times as much per pound of body weight as we do.
  • Their typical behaviors like crawling & putting everything into their mouths expose them to more risk.
  • Their body systems (nervous, endocrine, respiratory, etc) are still developing.

And research on the cumulative health risks over many years of toxic chemical exposure is concerning. For example, because children’s endocrine systems are still developing, research indicates it’s particularly important for them to avoid endocrine disruptors (like phthalates found in fragranced products), because they can cause harmful effects that can last into adulthood. Another study recently showed the cumulative effect of daily exposure to cleaning chemicals was equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day! Another staggering fact is that now 40% of US children have asthma and allergies, with cleaning products being among the top triggers.

Top 5 Ingredients To Avoid In Cleaning Products

To reduce the health risks related to cleaning product exposure in childcare centers, schools and your home, here are some of the top ingredients to avoid:

1. Fragrances

Fragrance formulas are considered “trade secrets”, which means manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the fragrance ingredients in their formulas. That’s how phthalates can be so common despite being known endocrine-disruptors. Phthalates are in fragrances to make the scent last, so they are extremely common despite being linked to hormone-disruption, as well as allergies, asthma, and cancer. Natural fragrance is not necessarily safer, so always seek out fragrance-free products. 

2. Disinfectants

Conventional disinfectants, like bleach, ammonia, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds are linked to asthma, allergies, endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity.

3. Preservatives

Preservatives are used to extend a product’s shelf life. Even ones commonly found in “natural” cleaning products like Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) & Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT), are associated with inhalation toxicity, dangerous allergic reactions, and possible neurotoxicity. That’s because there are no federal health standards for what cleaning products can be labeled as “natural”.

4. Surfactants

These are foaming agents used to create those fluffy suds we equate with “clean”. Two common surfactants are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). SLS has been linked to skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and ecotoxicology. SLES is linked with skin and eye irritation. A big concern with both of these is their contamination with the carcinogenic by-product called 1,4 dioxane, an ingredient that is an eye, nose and throat irritant (even in small doses) and is considered by the State of California to be potentially toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, liver and respiratory system.

5. Dyes

Artificial colorings and dyes are only added to make a formula look pretty and in no way add to their ability to clean and disinfect. Used in all kinds of applications like artificial food coloring , hair dye , and textiles, dyes are related to a host of health issues, including behavioral problems, cancers and allergic reactions.

An Important Note About Asthma & Allergies

If you or your child has asthma or allergies, you know how scary and serious these conditions can be. Some of the steps we take to create a clean and dust-free environment for our children with these conditions could actually be contributing to them. The ingredients mentioned above, like fragrances, dyes, preservatives, and surfactants, are known to exacerbate and trigger these conditions.

What You Can Do

Children’s Environmental Health Network has a great resource here to help you find childcare centers in your area that meet their rigorous environmental health standards. They are also doing amazing work to help educate childcare providers, local, state & federal government organizations on children’s environmental health issues. Talk to your child’s school or daycare provider about what cleaning products they use and help educate them about some of the risks that come with conventional cleaning products. Force of Nature is a great option for schools ready to make the change, because it’s a cleaner & disinfectant with no toxic chemicals whatsoever  – no preservatives, dyes, fragrances or surfactants, no toxic fumes or residues. And, at just $0.07/ounce, it’s not only a kid-friendly, effective solution, but one that’s economical, too.

Learn More

As parents, we knew there had to be a way to keep our homes clean without toxic hazmats. We designed Force of Nature – a small appliance that harnesses the power of simple, household ingredients (it starts with just salt, water, and vinegar) – to create a cleaning solution that’s gentle enough to spray on a high chair and yet as effective as bleach. Force of Nature is gentle enough to be used around children and pets and effective enough to handle all the many messes and germs that come with the territory.

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