Common Cleaner Releases 146 Contaminants Into the Air
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
Have you heard? Cleaning is a life-saving form of exercise, but using cleaning sprays has the same effect on lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Household cleaners are also known to decrease reproduction in mice studies.
But what you may not know is that the most ubiquitous counter cleaner has over a hundred unlisted ingredients, many of which are toxic or carcinogenic!
That’s right. Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, a product perceived as safe and used in schools, homes and churches everywhere, is quite the toxic bomb. We presume that Comet is in most janitorial supplies due to its ability to bleach, while its abrasive action scrubs away unsightly mess. The fact that it is sold in every grocery store and has only a few ingredients listed on the container lulls the public into thinking it is safe.
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Comet powder contains 146 ingredients and releases over a hundred toxicants into the air while in use.
In 2009, Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report called Greener School Cleaning Supplies. They tested 21 cleaners in California schools and found that Comet cleaner emitted the most air pollutants of any cleanser.
Ordinary school cleaning supplies can expose children to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems and to hundreds of other air contaminants that have never been tested for safety, a study by the Environmental Working Group shows. Laboratory tests done for EWG found that a typical assortment of cleaning products released 457 distinct chemicals into the air.
Lax labeling requirements mean that schools often don’t know what they’re purchasing. Many would be alarmed to learn that when used as directed, Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, a product commonly used in both schools and private homes, released more than 100 air contaminants, including chloroform, benzene, and formaldehyde.
In their PDF report, they write (page 2):
Statewide, cleaning supplies release 32 tons of contaminants into the air each day. Some of the products tested are widely used in American households, including:
- Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, which emitted 146 contaminants when used as directed, including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and four other chemicals identified by the state of California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.
Formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform can cause cancer, and formaldehyde by itself is implicated in causing asthma. EWG classified Comet as one of the “Worst Cleaners” because it released the most air pollutants out of the cleaners tested.
Why Aren’t the Ingredients Listed?
Comet powder contains 60-100% calcium carbonate. Other ingredients listed are: Calcium Hydroxide, fragrance, Green 7, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Linear Alkylbenzenesulfonate, Trichloro-s-triazinetrione (bleach), Trichloroisocyanuric acid.
Then there are the MSDS listings. The breakdown is as follows: Calcium Carbonate 60-100%, Sodium Carbonate 7-13%, Calcium Hydroxide 1-5%, Sodium Dichloro-s Triazinetrione Dihydrate 1-5%.
MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. But, not all ingredients are listed on an MSDS.
That means only 8 ingredients are listed!
In all, air testing revealed a total 457 chemicals emitted into schools by the 21 cleaners tested. As of 2009 only about 9 schools attempted to adopt “greener” cleaning. Unfortunately, “greener” doesn’t always mean safer for human health.
What Can I Do?
If you’d like to stop using so many industrial chemicals in the home, here are a few ideas.
A popular natural “comet” recipe is:
- 1 part baking soda (about $.45 per box at Aldi!)
- 1 part salt (essential oils optional)
Stir with fork and store in jar. Old Parmesan cheese bottles are great to store this natural cleaner.
You may add, or use Washing soda, or borax instead. Washing soda can remove coffee stains from mugs without scratching them. Just be careful as these can be irritating. Here is a recipe that combines all the ingredients and comes out to $0.06 an ounce. The addition of peroxide to the baking soda/salt recipe can help, but be sure to read directions here.
Another great alternative to chemical abrasive cleaners is the “magic eraser.”
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DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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