Living Greener - A Way to Help Your Allergies AND the Environment?

  • It seems everywhere you turn these days, you're reading about going green, living green, being eco-friendly and saving our environment. All praise-worthy efforts, to be sure. But does it have anything to do with allergy control?


    Well, the answer is, yes, quite possibly. Of course, any time there is a hot trend, as "green" is these days, you're going to hear a lot of hype and get people who are taking advantage of the trend to make money for themselves. So, don't believe everything you hear and read.


    But there is some evidence that using more eco-friendly products may also be more allergy-friendly as well. For example, using eco-friendly, or green cleaning products may reduce the number of irritating fumes and chemicals in your environment.

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    An article on, a website that sells allergy products, quotes a Dr. Jeanne McLughlin, who is a certified building biologist, as saying, "The cleaner your home is, the more toxic it can be." Interesting viewpoint.


    Spring cleaning is a good idea in the next few months, to rid your home of the accumulation of dust, pollen, and animal dander that tends to gather during the closed-in winter months. But using traditional cleaning products can actually detract from your indoor air quality by leaving behind noxious fumes and residues that can irritate already inflamed airways.


    Now, those fumes won't bother everyone with allergies, but they do bother quite a few of us, me included. They can also aggravate skin allergies if they come into contact with your skin during use. The idea behind green cleaning products is that they don't contain the same kinds of toxic chemicals, things like:

    • Ammonia
    • Phospates
    • Sudsing agents
    • Petroleum-based chemicals
    • Bleach
    • Sulfates
    • Aerosols
    • Fragrances
    • Formaldehyde
    • Chlorine

    All of those substances, while effective components of cleaning solutions, can spell allergy triggers for those who are sensitive. And they're quite toxic to our environment as well.


    Tips for Going Green When You Clean


    Used to be, green cleaning products were hard to come by or you had to pay an arm and a leg. Fortunately, that's changing. But, as I mentioned above, there will be unscrupulous manufacturers trying to take advantage of you. So, buyer beware -- make informed decisions if you decide to go this route. Here are some tips.


    1. Learn how to read cleaning product labels & know what to look for. Just because a label says a product is green or "natural", doesn't mean it is. There are no regulations controlling this at present, so false claims can be made. Organic is not necessarily good, as products labeled organic often contain what are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are know to pollute air quality. Plant-based products are usually green and safe for people with allergies. By the way, if a product doesn't list its ingredients, proceed with caution. Look for the Green Seal of Approval, from an organization that tests products to be sure they are both green and effective.


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    2. Don't pay a premium price just because a product is green. In the past, that may have been necessary, but these days, there are many affordable green cleaning products available.


    3. Make your own green cleaning product. Perhaps the easiest eco-friendly approach is to make your own. This involves relying on some of the old standbys your grandmother or great grandmother may have used before modern science started producing the sophisticated products on the market today. For instance:

    • Lemon juice is good at cleaning grease and stains, plus it deodorizes to boot.
    • White vinegar is a multipurpose solution that can be used to deodorize and disinfect just about any surface. It also cuts through grease, dirt, mold, and soap scum and lifts out mineral deposits. Mix it with water (1 T. vinegar per 1 qt water) and use it as a window cleaner or mirror cleaner. Add organic salts to it for a green scrubbing solution. It's even good for cleaning floors!
    • Baking soda is another all-purpose green cleaner. It'll polish stainless steel and gets rid of acid stains. Like lemon juice and vinegar, baking soda is a great deodorizer and can be used in the fridge, in your basement, etc. It makes a great oven cleaner when mixed with water. Sprinkle it on your carpet before vacuuming to absorb odors.
    • Olive oil, used alone or mixed with lemon juice, can replace your furniture polish.
    • Substitute cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns for mothballs.

    In my opinion, it makes sense for both our environment and for your health to start using more green cleaning products this spring. You'll have less allergy symptoms and you'll also be doing something to make our world a better place!

Published On: February 28, 2009