As a mother of two little boys, disinfecting is a topic that is quite important in our household. Now I am not a germ-freak by any means, but I must say, boys are gross! And once they are potty trained, the bathroom is just not as clean as it used to be. But now with little ones especially, I am concerned about using highly toxic chemicals to clean and kill germs. Both germs and chemicals can cause illness. So I did a little research on some of the products available for use in the home, and here are my findings:
Disinfectants are usually phenol- or cresol-based and deactivate sensory nerve endings. They attack the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and the central nervous system (CNS) and it takes over a year to eliminate the unhealthy effects of spraying 2 ounces, even with heavy cross ventilation. Bleach, also commonly used as a disinfectant, is the number one chemical involved in household poisoning. Hypochlorite (bleach) was the source of 54,433 poisonings in 2005. Bleach may cause reproductive, endocrine, and immune system disorders.
Hazards of Select Disinfectant Ingredients
Alcohols- these are used as skin cleaners as well as a transport medium for other active ingredients, but nevertheless are irritant to eyes, nose and throat at high airborne concentrations and are highly flammable.
Aldehydes- glutaraldehyde is classified as a skin and respiratory sensitisor. Formaldehyde is a strong respiratory irritant and is also classified as a category 3 carcinogen. Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in cleaning products.
Bleach and Related Substances- Hypochlorite and organic chlorine-releasing compounds are corrosive in their concentrated form and are classified as eye and skin irritants even when diluted in a 5 to 10% solution. In 1994, the Clinton Administration announced a Clean Water Plan that could eventually eliminate chlorine and chlorine-based products due to the many hazards they entail. Sodium hypochlorite is an oxidizer that has been implicated in many household accidents and/or deaths, according to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s annual reports. Improper use of bleach may result in mixing with acid-containing products such as toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia to create toxic gases which are dangerous or even fatal if inhaled. Furthermore, concentrations of sodium hypochlorite as small as .04% have been shown to elicit positive skin contact sensitivity responses in a clinically sensitized individual.
Phenol-Based Disinfectants- In 1994, EPA classified ortho-phenylphenol (OPP) as a carcinogen, and many studies have shown its cytotoxicity and genotoxicity. OPP is irritating to the skin and eyes. There have been reported cases of allergic contact dermatitis, contact urticaria (hives) or of depigmentation of the skin. Residue on surfaces can cause hazardous injury to tissue or mucous membranes. Phenol-based products used in hospitals are banned from use on infant contact surfaces.
Safer Disinfecting for the Home
There is a great product recommended by Dr. Doris Rapp, author of “Is This Your Child?” and an environmental medicine specialist, which kills germs and cleans in one step without alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, phenol, or gluteraldehyde. EPA registered Basic Germicide is what we use in our own home. A much safer choice to use where you need a germicidal cleaner. Basic Germicide provides a balance of product strength against the type of ingredients used in the product. It is a concentrated quaternary ammonium-based germicide and cleaner with the main active ingredients derived from quaternary ammonium salts. Basic Germicide is tested and shown to be effective against MRSA, a form of staph infection which can be deadly, as well as over 40 other microorganisms. It is safe to use on all nonporous surfaces.
Most chlorine bleach products are used for general sanitizing purposes and cannot make any specific claims of effectiveness as they are not EPA-registered products. Basic Germicide is effective against more types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses than most household disinfectants. The product is composed of ingredients whose effectiveness has been verified by stringent performance testing in accordance with EPA requirements. As a highly concentrated disinfectant, the ingredient functionalities of this product are much stronger than is the case with ready to use disinfectants. While Basic Germicide is toxic in a concentrated form, it has a high dilution ration of 256:1 and is non-toxic when diluted according to directions.
Basic Germicide is very affordable with a low cost per use when diluted according to the package instructions. One quart makes enough solution to clean and disinfect more surface area than 482 17-oz spray bottles of full strength Lysol disinfectant. To disinfect and clean surfaces, we mix 1/2 teaspoon of the concentrate with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle. For maximum effectiveness, use the standard procedure for EPA registered disinfectants: spray on, allow a contact time of 10 minutes, then wipe away. Rinse any food contact surfaces or toys after disinfecting. The product has been used by environmentally conscious organizations such as the Cousteau Society, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, NASA, and the Biosphere 2 project. We also use Basic Germicide to clean toilets, generally 1/2 to 1 ounce full strength applied around the inside of the rim, allow to stand 10 minutes, then we clean the toilet with a brush. Note: for mineral deposits in toilets try a pumice stone.
You might be familiar with some of the experiments in Doris Rapp’s books “Is This Your Child” and “Is This Your Child’s World.” In one of Dr. Rapp’s studies, she tested the effect of bleach on six-year-olds handwriting. Before a bottle of bleach was opened, students wrote their names fairly well. Then, with just an opened bottle of bleach in the room, the children wrote their names again. The difference was dramatic! Some wrote messy, some too small to read, and one even wrote backwards. One mother tried this test for herself at home: “ I didn’t tell my kids what I was doing. I only told them to write as neatly as they could. They printed their names on a sheet of paper. Then, I told them to hold up their papers while I wiped the table off with a Clorox wipe. As soon as it was dry enough, I had them put their papers down and write their names again. I was
shocked! My daughter’s writing was visibly messier; instead of letters being tight and connected, they were loopy and crooked. My son was completely distracted by something while he was writing his name! (This is uncharacteristic of him. He has no attention difficulties.) When he realized that he was talking about something else, he stopped mid-sentence and said: Wait, I’m supposed to be writing my name! The next letter he wrote was upside-down (which my son had never done before). I took it to the next level and had my children move to another room where there were no Clorox fumes. They wrote their names again and proved that without being under the infuuence they could write just as neat as the first time. I could clearly see that the chemicals were affecting both writing ability and focus.” So in my opinion, based on this unofficial test, the Clorox wipes should also be avoided. It is quite simple to spray something like Basic Germicide on surfaces and wipe down with a clean rag or a paper towel. But if the wipes are desired, the same manufacturer does make safe disinfecting wipes, fragrance-free. So since we have lots of safe choices for our homes, a clean and safe home should be our goal. Do it for your health and your children’s health.
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