What’s Clean?

Hello everyone! My name is Kaitlyn Weyant and I just recently joined the Protect our Breasts team this semester. My area of research is cleaning products!

Since we are now about half way through October and everyone has settled into their dorms and apartments for a while, the dust and dirt may be starting to pile up! When it comes to cleaning your room, your bathroom, or your house, certain cleaning products could be doing more harm to your health than the dirt itself. Everyone can recognize the distinct smells of cleaning agents when walking into a recently cleaned home or room.  What we don’t realize is that many of the chemicals we are using to keep us safe from germs are actually putting us at risk to the many toxins and endocrine disruptors that can contribute to breast cancer.

A recent visit to the grocery store proved to be a bit shocking when I turned over a bottle of laundry detergent to look at the ingredients and all it said was “Ingredients include biodegradable surfactants (anionic and nonionic) and enzymes,” without any other information about all of the chemicals used! After going online to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/ , I discovered that the chemicals in cleaning products are not regulated and the government does not evaluate the safety of these products before they are put on the shelves. EWG says that many companies refuse to disclose all of their ingredients because they don’t want competitors to steal their formulas. This is understandable in terms of business but not in terms of our health.

So how are we supposed to protect ourselves from information that we can’t even access? Luckily, the EWG website has made it very easy to look up laundry detergents, air fresheners, all-purpose cleaners, etc. to find their rating in terms of their ingredients and safety. Many of the popular brands that most of us use were given surprisingly disappointing ratings from the EWG. Basically all of the brands that I have used and my family uses were given ratings of an “F,” which shocked me. The rating of an “F” means that the EWG has determined them to be “potentially significant hazards to health or the environment or poor ingredient disclosure.”  So what do we use? We should use the valuable information that EWG provides to discover some safer alternative cleaning supplies.

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