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Common Scents for Safe Cleaning: Part 1

The potential danger of household cleaners was brought to my attention as a young girl by hearing frequent retellings of my mother’s nearly life-threatening experience during an attempt to sanitize a toilet bowl. She was cleaning the bowl with ammonia and just for extra power, splashed in some bleach. The fumes just about caused her to flee the bathroom gasping for air. The tissues in her sinus cavities ,bronchial tubes and lungs were burned by the vapor, then some scar tissue developed.

For years she suffered with a chronic cough and bouts of walking pneumonia . At the present her respiratory system still remains easily susceptible to infection. Later, my mom read accounts of housewives who were not as fortunate as she had been, since the cloud of fumes from mixing certain chemicals with chlorine can freeze the lungs, causing suffocation. NEVER, NEVER mix anything with bleach was a continual tape that ran through my head whenever I set out to clean! Actually, I just never use bleach at all these days.

Here’s why :

Household bleach is an irritant and may cause skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation.

Dermatitis may result from direct skin contact.

Ingestion of a few ounces or more of bleach may result in medical complications.

DO NOT mix bleach with acids! Mixing household bleach with acids such as vinegar, ammonia, toilet bowl cleaners; and drain cleaners produces chloramine gas which can result in burning of mucous membranes and chemical pneumonia.

If you use "fresh scented" bleach be aware that it may mask your natural ability to nasally detect overexposure to the bleach product.

According to Susan Boothby, an attorney from Denver..."We have a special concern with the use of chlorine (found in laundry bleaches and other cleaners). Whenever chlorine is used, organochlorides are formed. Organocholrides are precursors to dioxins, a deadly class of compounds that cause toxic health effects at levels thousands of times lower than most other chemicals. Dioxins do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in human tissue. Anything bleached with chlorine has organochloride residues. A new EPA draft report on the dangers of dioxin warns for the first time that even trace amounts can cause serious health problems including birth defects, genetic mutations, threats to the immune and reproductive systems, damage to the liver, kidneys and skin and even cancer." (

We want to kill the germs lurking in our homes, right? Housecleaning does not have to be hazardous! Bring those chemical cleaning products to the hazardous waste collection and explore some great-smelling, safe alternatives using essential oils.

Be Well, Jen at Oils For Wellness

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