Sue Rossi: Thinking green when keeping it clean

Impact of environment on child's development, strategies for maintaining healthier choices, green cleaning products

  • Nov. 30, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Editor’s note: Following is the second in a series on the impacts that environments have on a child’s development and why it is important to understand strategies and tips for maintaining healthier everyday choices.

Chemicals in household cleaning products (liquids and powders, polishers, drain cleaners) and cosmetics or personal care products create foam, dissolve grease, remove stains, dissolve mineral build-up, and add colour, fragrance and more. Many cleaning products contain chlorine-based or other very strong chemicals.

The cleaning power of the product is often far beyond what is needed to clean most household dirt.

Chemicals in cleaning products can leave chemical residues on surfaces and contribute to indoor air pollution. Many different chemicals are used in the home, such as during renovations, pest control, and operating and maintaining vehicles or other small motorized equipment. Chemicals may also be brought into the home when clothes are dry cleaned; occupational circumstances can also contribute to “take-home” exposures on shoes or clothing. Many of these chemicals have not been adequately, if ever, tested for their effects on prenatal or child health. Some chemicals are associated with known or suspected hazards. Choice is often available in the form of less-toxic or non-toxic alternatives.

Toxic Use

Reduction Tips:

n Choose from widely available “green” or non-toxic cleaning products (e.g., see the Guide to Less Toxic Products at

n Avoid chlorine-based cleaning products (especially in dishwashing powder, to reduce exposure to DBPs in the steam).

n Where a strong cleaning product is necessary, buy the least amount necessary to do the job and choose creams and liquids to avoid inhaling particles in powders and sprays.

n Ventilate well and keep children away until odour is gone. For products with hazard symbols, follow label instructions carefully. See Health Canada’s Aim for Safety — Target the Label at label.htm.

All of the information in this article was extracted from Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment, Child Health and the Environment – A Primer.

Sue Rossi is project leader for The Child Health and Environment Project funded by the North Okanagan Early Childhood Development Committee and hosted through the First Nations Friendship Centre.