Cleaning Products: Avoid Toxic Chemicals, Volatile Organic Compounds and Nonylphenol Ethoxylate

This weeks Green Tips article focuses on pollutants to our environment. Most of the conventional cleaning products used today are petroleum based and contain toxic chemicals and harmful volatile organic compounds known as VOC’s. VOC’s have been identified as one of the many contributors to ozone depletion, and have been proven to be hazardous to public health, causing nose and skin irritation, rashes, headaches, and respiratory infections. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that concentrations of many VOC’s are up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors, and that indoor air quality is one of our greatest environmental health problems. And surface cleaners aren’t the only contributors to pollutants in our environment; the detergents we commonly use to clean our clothes also have an adverse affect on our ecosystem. Conventional laundry detergents expose your garments to a barrage of harsh chemicals, which will ultimately find there way into our water supplies. The main concerns in the average bottle of detergent is a chemical known as Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE), a common wetting agent used largely in laundry detergents and in lesser quantities in many applications such as pesticides.

NPE can be very toxic to certain water-dwelling wildlife and can also begin to build up long term in water-dwelling organisms. When the chemical is distributed into our environment it begins to degrade to an even more harmful substance known as Nonylphenol (NP), which is not easily biodegradable and can take a substantial amount of time to fully degrade in surface water or in soils. Laundry detergents, as well other cleaning agents (e.g. dishwasher detergent), also commonly are made with Phosphates to help boost the cleaning efficiency of the detergent. Phosphorous is a natural plant nutrient, but when an unnatural increase of the chemical is distributed into our natural waterways the effects can be very harmful. The additional Phosphates promote algae growth at a much faster rate, making the water green and cloudy and adversely affecting animals in the waterway.

As the negative environmental and health impacts of conventional cleaning products are better understood, more economical, healthy, and effective cleaning products are becoming available to consumers. Many of these products are biodegradable, non-toxic, and made from renewable resources. Additional benefits include earning up to fourteen points under the LEED certification system for utilizing green cleaning products in your home. Do your part to keep our environment and your home safe by utilizing green cleaning products.

Here are your weekly Green Tips:

Green Tip #1: Buy Green Cleaning Products! Consider organic cleaning products in your home or office. Many of these products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). Home-mixed cleaners can get the job done and then some. Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything. Mix in a little warm water with either of these and you’ve got yourself an all-purpose cleaner!

Green Tip #2: Use light paint colors for your house’s exterior! Lighter colors reflect heat better than darker ones.

Green Tip #3: Wash your clothes in cold water! By using cold water instead of warm, the average household can avoid emitting 1,281 pounds of carbon dioxide annually and save on energy bills.

This article was authored by Shubair Jaffery, Chief Financial Officer for

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