Cleaning under the sink
I decided that today was the day I would clean out the toxic chemicals under my sink. One of the things that prompted me was this article on Grist.org. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death of middle-aged American women, and I already know quite a few near my age who have it or have had it. Frankly, I don’t want to take any chances. Many of the things under my sink, I rarely use. But they’re still in my house, releasing whatever off-gassing they’re releasing, and they’re near my food. So, let’s just get rid of them. (Or at least most of them.)
I looked up the chemicals in some of my cleaners. The first thing you’ll notice is that not all cleaners have their ingredients listed on them. “What?” you say. That’s right – they’re not really required to list their ingredients. So, you may have to go online and look them up. Woolite, for example, did not list one ingredient on the bottle. It just says “Contains no phosphates.” On their website, I found a host of ugly chemicals, such as triethanolamine (cancer causing agent), sodium laureth sulfate (causes organ system toxicity), sodium hydroxide (cancer causing agent) and methylisothiazolinone (causes neuro toxicity). Bye, bye, Woolite! Both of my bottles of anti-bacterial soap (which you shouldn’t really use for other reasons – namely conditioning your body to NOT fight off bacteria) contained triclosan, which is a cancer causing agent. (Notice the big red “7” on that page.) And even my “Pet Organics” No Scratch spray contained sodium lauryl sulfate (a cancer causing agent).
I had to look up the ingredients in Goo Gone, and there were a few lesser evil ones, so I decided to keep it. It is so valuable to me when reusing glass jars. I will, however, buy a pair of rubber kitchen gloves to use with it so my skin does not come in contact with it.
If you visit the website of your favorite cleaner, they might not shout out the location of its ingredients. They might hide it in a PDF called MSDS, which stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. This document will give you a list of ingredients which you can then take to Skin Deep, the cosmetic safety database. Most all ingredients found in cleaners can be found in this database. (This might lead you to wonder why the harsh chemicals found in cleaning products would also be found in things you put on your face or skin.)
Once you identify the nasty products (which will most likely be all of them unless you’ve already purchased safe ones), DO NOT, under any circumstance, dump the evil substances down the drain! This is a common mistake made by lots and lots of people. Doing this will, as you can guess, poison your own (and others’) water supply.
Visit Earth911 to find your nearest chemical collection center. They will also direct you to places to recycle your other unwanted stuff, such as computers or aluminum cans.
So, what’s left after cleaning under the sink until I go shopping for a few green products? Borax, vinegar, bleach, epsom salts, Goo Gone, biodegradable garbage bags (and a few used garbage bags I’m going to re-use), Brillo pads and sponges. (I think the Brillo pads are going, too, though, as they contain sodium nitrates, which poses a medium level health concern. I use them rarely when food burns onto my non-stick pans. I’m just going to get some steel wool instead.)
Now that I’m done with this project, I feel a lot better about the health of my house.
Next, I’ll conquer the items under my bathroom sink!