of the most dangerous contaminants known today are called Volatile
Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs
are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.
Examples include: paints, paint strippers, building materials, wood
preservatives, cleaning supplies, degreasers, copiers, printers,
correction fluids, carbonless copy paper, glue, adhesives, permanent
markers, and photographic solutions.
These everyday items that are meant
to facilitate our lives, in fact may be harming us more than we
bargained for. Ironically, we as consumers are the reason they are
produced. Organic chemicals are extremely cheap to produce and are
very effective in their job functions.
VOCs are not ingredients themselves,
rather, they are gases that are slowly and constantly being released
from organic chemicals that are used to manufacture a product. EPA
studies indicate that while people are using products containing
organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very
high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in
the air long after the activity is completed.
POPs on the other hand are highly stable
organic compounds used as pesticides, disinfectants, and industrial
chemicals. POPs are a special problem because they persist in the
environment, accumulate in the fatty tissues of most living organisms,
and are toxic to humans and wildlife.
Many consumer and commercial products
contain POPs as their main ingredient. POPs are also found in household
insecticides, degreasers, and moth repellants. POPs are so pervasive,
that according to the EPA, nearly every person on earth can be shown
to harbor detectable levels of dozens of POPs.
POPs and other variations such as Persistent,
Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) Pollutants pose risks to human
health and ecosystems thus making them highly destructive to our
planet as a whole.
Constant exposure to VOCs can cause
adverse health conditions such as cough, chest tightness, fever,
chills, muscle aches, and allergies. High concentrations of VOCs
and POPs have been shown to cause cancer, reproductive problems,
birth defects, and even death. The use of products that emit VOCs
and POPs is also at least in part responsible for many Building
Related Illness (BRI) conditions such as Sick Building Syndrome
(SBS), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and Asthma.
If in fact these products are so harmful
for us, why then are they still being manufactured and sold to the
public? The truth is that there are currently few regulations on
the development or safety testing of these chemicals. The Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) only tests prescription drugs and consumable
products. The EPA will investigate after sufficient complaints have
been reported. Basically, if a chemical warrants an investigation,
there have already been many people negatively affected. Interestingly
enough, the EPA has listed most VOCs and POPs as Extremely Hazardous
Substance (EHS). Unfortunately, chemical production continues largely
to Save Our World
The best way to protect ourselves and
our planet is to minimize or eliminate our exposure to these substances.
Not surprisingly, some of the most toxic are found in everyday "off-the-shelf"
products like all-purpose cleaners, oven cleaners, and fabric softeners.
These harmful poisons need to be replaced
with non-toxic and environmentally safe counterparts right away.
For daily cleaning, baking soda and vinegar are wonderful natural
alternatives that do a great job keeping things clean.
If you are currently using a product
that has one of the following ingredients, the best thing you can
do for everyone's health is to stop using it and throw it out. Harmful
VOCs and POPs include: Ammonia, Ammonium Hydroxide, Chlorine bleach,
Formaldehyde, Hydrochloric acid, Hydrochloric bleach, Lye, Naphtha,
Nitrobenzene, Perchlorethylene, Petroleum Distillates, Phenol, Propylene
Glycol, Sodium hypochlorite, Sodium laurel sulfate, Sodium tripolyphosphate,
And, of course, if you're throwing
away bottles, before you toss them in with your trash, check to
see if there's a community toxic waste program nearby where you
can safely dump all your "old" cleaning supplies. The
last thing you want is those chemicals seeping into our water supply.
If we all do our part by not purchasing toxic products, we can all
make a difference in reducing harmful chemicals from our bodies
and our environment.
is the co-founder of AA Environmentally Safe Cleaning http://www.aaclean.com
a Cambridge based cleaning company that specializes in non-toxic
cleaning of homes and non-profit organizations. He is an advocate
of cutting back on our dependence on chemicals and toxic substances
that harm our health and our planet. He can be reached at email@example.com.