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Happy Earth Day! Here's to Healthy Spring Cleaning

The weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer and as we are exposed to more sun light, our dopamine and serotonin levels rise to boost our mood and motivation. We are ready to clean out accumulated crust and dust from our minds and our homes after winter’s long sleep.

Spring cleaning can have many health benefits if we do it wisely.

1. Cleaning dust and allergens can mean easier breathing and a stronger immune system and less exposure to toxins that accumulate in dust.

2. Cleaning can be great exercise.

3. Reducing clutter can reduce anxiety, increase productivity, improve sleep, decrease injury from slips and falls and help us make better food choices!

With all these benefits, even Oscar the Grouch may be excited to bring out the vacuum. It’s important that we make a plan to keep cleaning healthy and avoid injury, respiratory and asthma symptoms, and toxic exposures from cleaners.

1. Make sure to take breaks, stretch and trust your body when it comes to lifting and repetitive movements.

2. Make sure to wear a mask when cleaning dusty spaces, and use a mop or damp cloth to remove dust

3. Ventilate well – open windows, turn on a fan

4. Use cleaning products free of harmful chemicals or make your own

5. Get rid of air freshener sprays

Unfortunately, many commercially available cleaning products contain ingredients that are linked to cancer, reproductive and metabolic harm, and asthma. It’s important to do your homework when selecting cleaning products or invest in some supplies to make your own.

According to the California Department of Health, ingredients of concern that have frequently been identified in cleaning products are quaternary ammonium chlorides, glycols and glycol ethers such as 2-butoxyethanol, ethanolamine, and some alcohols such as benzyl alcohol, ammonia, and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Studies have identified household cleaning products to be associated with increased risk of asthma and wheezing in adults, adolescents and young children. The use of cleaning sprays at least once per week was associated with an increased risk of asthma. The highest risk being air freshener sprays. The American Lung association recommends using only cleaning products that don’t contain volatile organic compounds, fragrances, irritants or flammable ingredients and air fresheners should be avoided all together.

Chemicals in cleaning supplies can also act as endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that can alter hormone signaling. They can influence the thyroid, nervous system, reproductive system, digestive system and insulin function. In addition to the chemicals above, alkyphenols, parabens, phthalates, ethanolamides and cyclosiloxanes are potentially found in cleaning products and are correlated with increased risk of cancer, decreased fertility and diabetes. Unfortunately, most cleaning product manufacturers do not disclose the ingredients of their cleaning products. Look for logos of independent organizations like EcoLogo or Green Seal. Using a reliable database can also be extremely helpful. The Environmental Working Group (EGW) which brings you the dirty dozen and clean 15 produce research, has an excellent searchable database and can be found here.

If you have some more time and also want to save some money, consider making your own cleaning supplies.

Many can be made with common kitchen items such as lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. Add some essential oils for a great fresh scent and an extra cleaning boost. There are great recipes for cleaning anything from the toilet to the microwave.

Here is my favorite all-purpose cleaner to get you started.

In a spray bottle add -

½ cup vinegar (let it sit with citrus peel in a jar for about 1 week to reduce the vinegar smell) 1 cup water 1 teaspoon castile soap.

Shake to mix.

Happy and healthy cleaning!

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