If I said to you “name something which produces these symptoms” and then said “Lung and skin irritant. If mixed with chorine, releases toxic chloramine gas. Short-term exposure to chloramine gas may cause coughing, choking and lung damage. Asthmatics may be particularly vulnerable to asthma and chloramine fumes”, what would you say? An industrial chemical leak perhaps? Well, the answer is household glass cleaner.
It’s quite chilling what most regular chemically based household cleaners can do to you and this is reflected in the number of people buying eco-friendly products or returning to more traditional methods using natural products like vinegar, lemons and newspaper.
We may not be so ready to slop the bleach about as we used to, but it is still the most common cleaner accidentally swallowed by children, and that can be fatal.
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So How Can You Stop This Happening?
Everyone wants to have as clean a house as possible with children around, but be careful what you do and how you do it. Make sure that ALL household cleaning products, whether chemical or otherwise, are kept locked away in a cupboard.
And I do mean locked in the ‘lock and key’ sense of the word, as child locks may not keep children out for long. Designed as a deterrent, they can sometimes be broken as children get stronger and more persistent.
It’s also important to make sure the cupboard is not only secure but away from any heat source, as some chemicals in cleaning products can react when heated and potentially explode or give off Noxious Fumes. So avoid radiators or cupboards next to ovens or glass fronted ones in sunlight.
Make sure that the cloths or sponges you use are kept out of reach as well, too. Residues of chemicals can be found on them and as children can often stuff things straight in their mouths, it’s best not to leave them out or better still, change them regularly.
How do I Know What’s Dangerous?
Young children are especially vulnerable, partly because of exposure. Everything goes in their mouths and they virtually live on the floor. And young kids are more sensitive because they are still developing the basic body systems: the brain, internal organs, respiratory and immune systems are not fully developed until adolescence.
If you find that your floor cleaner has a chemical in it you can’t even pronounce, you don’t know what it is, then you don’t know how it can affect your child.
There is a reason why household cleaners fall under the Hazardous Products Act. Labels are required to provide hazard symbols like ‘poison’ and ‘flammable’, which will give you your best indication of how to store them.
If you do use chemically based cleaners, make sure you open as many windows as possible to avoid a build up of fumes and encourage a draft to flow. Also, make sure you wipe away any residue cleaning substance from surfaces that may get wiped by little hands and put in mouths.
A Cautionary Tale…
Fewer than a quarter of the chemicals used in toiletries and cleaning products have been subjected to a full safety investigation, while others, officially classed as hazardous, are found in products from baby lotion to eye drops and cleaning fluids. Chemicals banned in other more tightly controlled areas are still commonly used in thousands of household products.
Using More Natural Alternatives
- Soda crystals (sodium carbonate), also known as washing soda, used to be the most common household cleaning product. You can use soda crystals to clean the kitchen floor, work surfaces, the draining board, wall tiles and leave overnight in the sink to clear tea stains.
- Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) is also an effective cleaning product around the house. It can be used as an oven cleaner. Spread on a paste of baking soda and water; leave for three minutes, then wash it off with a scouring cloth and hot water.
- Vinegar is a good alternative to many cleaning products. Use half vinegar, half water solution to clean windows, tiles and mirrors.
- Lemon juice can be used for cleaning toilets as well as cooking.
- Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, soluble in water. It can deodorise, inhibit the growth of mildew and mould, boost the cleaning power of soap or detergent, and remove stains.
- Cornstarch, derived from corn, can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs, and starch clothes.
- Tea tree oil has disinfectant properties.