life

Am I hazardous? An experiment, part I.

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You won’t believe what I found out about these common household cleaners.

This morning I decided to look a bit more critically at a few household cleaners that somehow made it through “Purge-gate” in August, when I swapped out old household cleaners for safer alternatives.

Even though I ditched the majority of stuff two months ago, I held onto a few products that I figured were probably okay:
Woolite, which my mom has used for ages
Swiffer wet cloths &
Bac-Out/Biokleen, a live enzyme/lime extract cleaner I used when my son was in cloth diapers

Could these three cleaners really be all that bad? I mean, they’ve been around for years.

I am no scientist, but here’s what my quick research revealed. Please note, I’m merely touching on the highlights that stood out to me personally as a human being who makes consumer choices. I’m not in a lab coat here; these are my quick and simple observations.

Test subject: WOOLITE – Extra Delicates Care

After researching the product, am I keeping it? Heck no.

Ingredients: Not listed on the bottle. I was referred to www.woolite.us for ingredients (they also won’t let me hyperlink, interesting.) Ingredients aren’t readily apparent on the website either; if you click on “contact us” at the bottom of the page you’ll see a “Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS)” request which points you to another website, which is a database of numerous products. I had to type in my specific brand to get the MSDS. FYI, the MSDS is required by OSHA as a document that contains info on potential hazards. Obviously this report is geared toward chemical handling of the product (picture: workers in a factory) so probably not common household use. BUT.

Check out the Woolite MSDS for yourself at: http://www.rbnainfo.com/MSDS//US/US%20-%20WOOLITE%20Extra%20Delicates%20Care%20-%20English%20%28Apr%202013%29.pdf

Here is what a quick scan of the info sheet revealed.

1. Health hazards:
Signs and symptoms: Symptoms may include redness, edema, drying, defatting and cracking of the skin.
My comment: Defatting? I don’t even want to google that.

7. Handling and storage:
Wash hands before breaks and immediately after handling the product.
My comment: Please note that traditionally Woolite was used for hand washing clothing, although now it’s commonly used in the washer. So I need to wash my hands after I wash my laundry? Do I need to be worried about clothes touching my skin when they are dry?

8. Exposure limits:
Not established.
My comment: I’m not sure how long Woolite has been around – I’d wager like 50 years or something – so I don’t know why they haven’t established exposure limits.

11. Toxicological information:
Component analysis: not available/
“not expected to have chronic health effects”
My comment: Again, how is a component analysis not available after 50 years? Wouldn’t chronic symptoms show up in test subjects over 50 years?

12. Ecological information:
Components of this product have been identified as having potential environmental concerns.
My comment:  Again, a lot of “not available”s concerning how it affects the environment.

15. Regulatory information:
This product is a “Hazardous Chemical” as defined by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.
My comment: WHAT?

16. Disclaimer/Other information:
This product should only be used as directed on the label and for the purpose intended. To the best of our knowledge, the information contained herein is accurate. However, neither the above named supplier nor any of its subsidiaries assumes any liability whatsoever for the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein. Final determination of suitability of any material is the sole responsibility of the user. All materials may present unknown hazards and should be used with caution. Although certain hazards are described herein, we cannot guarantee that these are the only hazards that exist.
My comment: WHAT?

I didn’t have the heart to continue looking into Woolite after this and I’ll be researching ways to properly dispose of it. Although, I’m not even sure what that would be.

Long story short: please read labels even if you have to work at getting the information. Just because a product has been around for 50-60 years does not ensure its safety. Government regulations on chemicals and products is surprisingly lax. The inspiration for this blog post came from Chapter 3 “Is Your Home a Healthy Home” from The Melaleuca Wellness Guide published by RMBarry.

Love to hear your thoughts/feedback on this.

Next up: Bac-Out/Biokleen. That’s a “green” product so surely we’ll have some better results, non?

– Laura

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