As healthcare professionals, nurses can serve as role models in reducing environmental toxin. Nurses have a leadership role in modeling healthy home and community behaviors. Implementing green cleaning products and encouraging others to do so produce several benefits, including healthier homes, less expense for cleaning products, safer solutions, and less added antibacterial agents.
The typical home storage cabinet includes an array of chemical cleaning products, with each containing its own variable levels of toxicity. Information on natural cleaning solutions is available from several online sources. As an example, www.realsimple.com offers a number of suggestions for home cleaning products. Here are are few ideas and recipes reproduced from their site.
Glass cleaner: 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol, 5 drops peppermint essential oil. Pour all into a 24-ounce spray bottle, give it a shake, spray onto microfiber cloth and apply to the surface. The vinegar cuts the dirt and the rubbing alcohol speeds up the drying process to prevent streaks. Peppermint has antibacterial properties; its aroma cuts the smell of the vinegar.
Carpet cleaner: 1 cup club soda or seltzer, ½ cup table salt. Blot to remove any excess liquid from the stain. Saturate the area with club soda and blot to remove excess. Next, sprinkle salt to cover the spot (more if needed). Let sit 12 hours or until dry. Vacuum to remove the salt. The carbonation of the club soda lifts the stain and the salt absorbs it.
Shower cleaner: ¼ cup vinegar and 1 cup water. Mix the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds. Pout into a 24-ounce spray bottle. Spritz onto shower surfaces and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Wipe clean with microfiber cloth. The warm liquid softens the grime, making it easier to wipe away.
“Women for a Healthy Environment” has a powerful mission to empower women to be ambassadors about environmental risks so that they can make healthy choices for themselves and their families. This non-profit promotes toxic-free home/work environments and lifestyles. They also provide online resources and 10 tips for maintaining a healthy home. In addition, they have launched an online campaign and petition to raise awareness on the green cleaning policy in schools and at the state level.
While homeowners may believe that stronger chemicals and antibacterial cleaning agents reduce pathogens in the home, the possibilities for genetic mutations and emergence of resistance species exist. The FDA recommends additional study safety data to support the safety of antiseptic active ingredients and noted the “record does not currently contain sufficient data to show that there is any additional benefit from the use of consumer antiseptic hand or body washes compared to non-antibacterial soap and water” (Department of Health & Human Services-FDA; Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 242 / Tuesday, December 17, 2013). Therefore, for healthy populations, regular soaps and green solutions may be more effective in the long term.
by Dr. Dee Minchhoff, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences