Happy (and Safe) Spring Cleaning!

young happy mother is a housewife with a baby does homework and

Spring is finally here! So the age-old practice of spring cleaning our homes from top to bottom is upon us. Throw open your windows, enjoy the spring air and keep these 5 things in mind for happy, healthy, and safe spring cleaning:

1) Keep Cleaning Products Out of Reach of Children. Many conventional cleaning products are made with chemicals of concern and must be kept out of reach of small children. Keep all cleaning products well out of reach of little ones and read up on household chemical safety.  The Government of Canada offers safety tips on household chemicals because unfortunately, household chemical products are responsible for far too many serious injuries in children under the age of five each year.

2. Know Your products.  I have found that the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a great tool in determining the toxicity of ingredients in common household cleaners.  Simply type in the name of your cleaning product into their database and all ingredients will be listed and ranked in terms of toxicity. Look for an ‘A’ which indicates cleaning products which are the ‘cleanest’. ‘F’ just as in school, is a fail. You may be surprised what you find. And be sure to check EWG’s Hall of Shame for the worst of the worst cleaners in terms of toxicity. I once found I owned one of these. Yikes!

3) It is Not Necessary to Use Conventional Cleaning Products. Many people have great success with D-I-Y cleaning products made with ingredients commonly found in a pantry. These home made cleaners are effective, non-toxic AND far more economical than conventional cleaners. Loads of recipes exist on the internet…everything from floor to window cleaners. A good source for D-I-Y cleaners is David Suzuki’s Queen of Green. Get a copy of some of her tried and true D-I-Y cleaner ‘recipes’ here and give it a go!

4) Ready Made Clean Cleaning Products Do Exist!  For those who don’t count D-I-Y among their talents (I am one of these!) know there are fantastic, smaller companies making products with NO toxic ingredients.  One of my favourite Canadian line of all-natural cleaning products (and deliciously scented with essential oils!) is by Vancouver-based Sapadilla. From laundry to floors, they have you covered. And I love Toronto company, GRAYDON for their all-natural product, Germs Away Mist.  In my house, this product alone takes care of all unwanted household smells (think diaper bin, bathrooms, yoga mat or gym bag). Even germs on hands benefit from the natural anti-microbial action of The Mist’s blend of 15 essential oils including clove, peppermint and geranium. And essential oils are much safer and easier on the skin and nose than synthetic perfume compounds.

5) And Be Aware of GreenWashing.  Companies can use the words ‘natural’ or ‘Green’ as a marketing term in Canada or the US without being held to the product really being better or safer than any other product. This is important for parents to know especially when the safety of children is at stake. I was surprised when I bought a household cleaning product with the word ‘Green’ in the product name just to find that its ingredients were too toxic for my comfort-level.

Toxins in Toyland

With Holiday season in sight, the time is upon us for to be aware of the toxins lurking in Toyland.  If you just thought ‘its only October, its too early’, think again.  Stores are at this moment stocking items they are hoping you will buy for gift-giving. So parents read on as after reading my experience you want to arm yourself with some info before you go head first into Holiday buying mode at your local toy store.

My first experience finding toxins in kids products in a toy store was in a kiddie nail polish. My girls love nail polish so whether in the toy store or the Drug Mart, they oogle the fancy colours longingly. This is how we became aware of kids nail polish, Piggy Paint.  Piggy Paint markets itself as ‘all natural’ but take a read of the chemicals on the label and you will find one chemical that is a known neurotoxin. And these particular Piggies are crafty, they call the particular chemical, Neolone 950 on their label, a trade name for the more dastardly Methylisothiazolinone a known neurotoxin.

Now if Piggy Paint were to market its product as a ‘almost all-natural nail polish for kids with one chemical included that may adversely affect your child’s nervous system over time, would you buy it?  Clearly the company figured out we may not like their product if it were labelled as such. And so it goes in the world of cosmetics, why be up front when you can greenwash and get away with it?

So now I don’t trust many kids products in the toystore (let alone other in stores but more on that in a future post) and so I reguarly engage in ‘toy store research’.  I have since found a Hannah Montana lip gloss with terephthalate (an industrial plasticizer) AND parabens (linked to cancer) included, as well as Hello Kitty lip glosses with NO ingredients listed.  As a parent not sure which is worse but best to avoid both for safety’s sake.

Toxins are not just in cosmetic preparations in the toystore.  Plastics in general are also a serious source of health-affecting chemicals. Recently a mom, Lori Popkewitz Alper wrote an article on her blog about Disney lunchboxes and backpacks containing unsafe levels of phthalates.  These plastic-softening compounds are known to cause ill health affects in humans so why are they used in the manufacture of toys? You can have your say, as Lori has started a petition.  Want sign to it?  You will be in good company as 58, 513 people already have.  Case in point, there are toxins in kids products you may never have imagined.

So as I say, be a warrior for your own health.  Your kids will be better off without toxic toys AND just think by not buying them we are speaking with our wallets.  Stop buying and they will stop producing.

My favourite line of safe kids cosmetics is by Keeki Pure & Simple.  Water-based nail polish, remover, organic lip balms with a hint of shimmer for girls who want to be fancy.  No surprise, Keeki was founded by a mom who like many of us, just can’t bear an industry using our kids as chemical guinea pigs.

Keeki Pure & Simple available across Canada via Sessabel.  May your holiday season be SAFE and toxin-free.

***at the time of writing this post, Piggy Paint’s website noted the Neolone 950 on their website as an ingredient in their polishes.  They have since changed their website to remove the Neolone 950.  My bottle still contains Neolone 950.  If they have indeed changed their ingredients, please note that old stock will remain in people’s homes and in stores for some time.  Still best to read labels and exercise caution when dealing with toxins.