Cleaning Safety at Home
You’ve created a seemingly perfect nursery for your newborn. You’ve worked hard to research the right products, remove existing toxins and prevent new ones from infiltrating your precious baby’s room. You’re giving your baby a fantastic building block for their health and wellness right off the bat.
Your newborn’s internal systems are far from developed with lungs that can be overly sensitive to indoor toxins and environmental hazards. They’ve been protected the last nine months and the transition to a toxin-filled world can be overwhelming. You’ve helped this transition with changes to the nursery, products in the nursery and their bedding.
However, even if you are providing 100% Organic Cotton Sheets, they can still become harmful to your baby after you wash them in a run-of-the-mill lavender scented baby detergent. The same goes for your crib. You’ve purchased a beautiful, solid wood crib made of solid wood that contains no VOCs, Formaldehyde or other toxins. It’s all for nothing if you choose to wipe it down with a Lysol wipe where your baby places their hands and mouth.
These are just a few examples of how your baby comes into contact with cleaning products every single day. The risk intensifies when your little one is mobile and puting their mouths on anything they can grab. That floor you just used harsh cleaners on? Your baby is getting the toxins on their hands and puting them into their mouths. What about your bathtub? If your bathtub is cleaned with harmful chemicals, your baby becomes surrounded by those as they bathe. Not to mention the amount of water that can get into your baby’s mouth during a bath.
You may even think that you’re in the clear because you use a Green or Eco-Friendly cleaner. Unfortunately, these terms are not regulated by any department and each term is open to the consumer’s interpretation of what it means. In other words, even if it says Green, Eco-Friendly or other “healthy” terms on the bottle, it may not necessarily be true.
This being said, products with a Green Seal or EcoLogo have been certified by independent, third party organizations to be an environmentally friendly cleaner. You can also generally trust the “Certified Organic” logo, which means the product is legally bound to comply with the US Department of Agriculture's standard of using ingredients that are from plants grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
It can be difficult to know exactly what is safe and what is not when you take into account the fact that not everything you read on a cleaning bottle means a whole lot. We haven’t even delved into the fact that most cleaning products have no ingredient list on the bottle. Due to Trade Secret regulations, by law, most cleaning products have no obligation to list their ingredients as they are specially formulated to their product.
What is a parent to do? Thankfully, there are some great alternative to the standard cleaners on the market. However, the first thing is to understand WHY these cleaners are harmful to your baby (and even yourself).
The list of cleaning ingredients that increase the risk of asthma or asthma symptoms is staggering. Childhood asthma is currently at an all-time high and one of the sources to blame is cleaning products that contain the following ingredients:
- Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride
- Alkyl Dimethyl Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride
- Didecyldimethylammonium Chloride
- Dioctyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride
- Distearyldimonium Chloride
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Monoethanolamine Citrate
- Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)
- Sulfuric Acid
While you won’t find these products listed on a package, you can research the particular cleaner you’re using or use the highly recommended database that the Environmental Working Group has put together in order to help you make an educated decision on your cleaners.
Asthma risk is much higher when a pregnant mother frequently uses cleaning products with these chemicals in them. A study performed by British universities found that the increased risk of respiratory irritation, illness and symptoms persisted in these children for up to eight years. This shows how delicate your baby’s lungs are and just how harmful the cleaning chemicals used can be.
Two of the most recognized cleaning products, bleach and ammonia, have actually been known to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
Allergies continue to be on the rise in children. Studies have found that cleaners are loaded with allergens that affect the skin, eyes and lungs in humans. Depending on the person, a normal cleaning product can cause them to suffer mild to severe allergic reactions.
Some cases have been shown to cause an allergic reaction only after a few exposures, while other cases have shown allergic reactions developing after frequent long-term use of cleaning chemicals.
Either way, the irritation and allergic reaction that is caused by these cleaners should be avoided, especially with children.
Skin, eye, nose and throat irritation is one of the number one complaints when it comes to cleaners within your home. Babies are sensitive to even the smallest amounts of cleaners, and can become very affected by these symptoms. The reason for the irritation often comes from fragrances, preservatives, solvents and surface cleaning agents.
Bleach is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to irritation. Bleach is in many of our cleaning and laundry products, but can be extremely harmful to the delicate skin and respiratory system of our babies.
One of the scary truths of cleaners on the market today is that they contain Formaldehyde. Some cleaners also contain preservatives that release formaldehyde which is used to kill bacteria and extend the product’s shelf life. We know from research and scientific studies over the years that Formaldehyde is harmful to the human body and a probable carcinogen.
While there is a need for more research to be completed around the risk of cancer and cleaning products, a general consensus is that cleaning products with chemicals like Formaldehyde are of no benefit to our bodies or health.
HOW TO CLEAN WITHOUT HARMING YOUR BABY
While the risks can be overwhelmingly alarming, taking the proper precautions will help your child avoid these toxins where possible. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that cleaning products (especially those in spray form) become airborne and affect the indoor air quality immediately.
With this in mind, it’s always important to have proper ventilation during and after cleaning anything in your home. Indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air, and cleaning without ventilation can be one HUGE factor in that.
Second, use cleaning products that don’t produce VOCs or use harmful chemicals. This can mean making your own completely non-toxic cleaning products or purchasing products that are verified and certified to be healthy and organic. Whatever you choose to do, keeping chemicals off of surfaces and out of the air will protect your child in the long run.