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March 19 2008 19:00

Don't Let Your Spring Cleaning Dirty the Environment MPCA Gives Alternatives to Hazardous Cleaning Products

Contacts: CoriAhna Rude-Young, 651-296-5965 Saint Paul, Minn. -- When walking through the cleaning aisle of a grocery or discount store, most people are looking for products that will keep their home clean -- but have they thought about products that can help keep their home "green"? Until recently, exposure to harmful chemicals has been largely overlooked as a source of indoor air pollution. However, studies have shown that chemicals in indoor air may exceed the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect us. You can help avoid such levels in your home by buying and using products that are free of toxic chemicals whenever possible. Reducing toxics inside your house can be as simple as looking for a few key words or ingredients. Look for products that appear to disclose all ingredients, and avoid ones that contain petroleum, phosphates, phthalates, triclosan and benzalkonium chloride. The words "caution," "warning" and "danger" indicate that the product's ingredients are harmful. There are wide varieties of alternatives as the market for non-toxic household products grows in response to consumer demand. Greener alternatives are prepared with plant-based materials, such as oils made from citrus, seed, vegetable or pine. These products are biodegradable, generally less toxic, and are made from renewable resources. Another alternative is to make your own solutions using common, single-ingredient household materials such as baking soda, vinegar, or plant-based soaps and detergents. Madalyn Cioci, source and toxicity reduction specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has cleaned with nothing but water, baking soda, vinegar and a dab of a citrus-based spot remover for several years. "I use non-chlorine, phosphorus-free dishwashing cleaner and have been refilling the same laundry bottle with laundry soap for at least two years. Not a single box or bottle has come out of my laundry room in that time." Basic soap and water has been shown to keep surfaces as free of bacteria as antibacterial soaps; baking soda works well to clean sinks, tubs and toilets; vegetable oil with a little lemon juice works wonders on wood furniture; use vinegar and water in a pump spray bottle for cleaning mirrors and shining chrome. Simple changes in our everyday routines such as how we choose the products we buy, or the way we clean our houses, can reduce our long-term exposure to low levels of potentially harmful substances. For more information on reducing toxins, additional recipes for making your own non-toxic cleaners and other ways to reduce waste in general, visit or

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