by Kathy Summers
Should you use green cleaners when you’re pregnant? We know it’s the chemicals in cleaners that really get the job done. But when you’re pregnant, it’s even more important to know what to avoid.
The problem is cleaning products don’t have to be tested, there are no federal requirements, so consumers have no official warning about long-term health effects or fetal damage from using household cleaners, so a list of all the chemicals pregnant women should avoid doesn’t exist. But a recent study from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom found that babies of women who frequently used chemical-based cleaners while pregnant are more than twice as likely to have breathing problems.
If you’re pregnant and have already used harsh chemical cleaners, don’t despair. your exposure is probably limited and the likelihood of complications is negligible., says Brad Imler, PhD., president of the American Pregnancy Association.
Tom Natan, Ph.D., research director for the National Environmental Trust, agrees. “While we don’t know enough about these products, most are probably safe when used as directed in limited amounts and only when necessary,” he says. The bigger concern is multiple exposures. “You don’t always know where the dangers are and you’re potentially exposed more often than you think throughout the day,” explains Natan, who believes soap, hot water and elbow grease are vastly underrated. “You don’t have to kill bacteria; you can just remove them from surfaces by scrubbing and using hot water,” he says.
While even the scientists don’t agree on the dangers of every chemical cleaner, here are a few to watch out for – and a few good substitute cleaners to try.
CONCERNS: Chlorine: Irritant; toxic; corrosive; may contain trace amounts of potentially carcinogenic organochlorines.
STAY SAFE: “Safe when used as directed,” says Brad Imler, Ph.D., president of the American Pregnancy Association. Use sparingly and with adequate ventilation. Never mix with ammonia (which creates toxic chloramine gas).
GO GREEN: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Non-Chlorine Bleach. $7.50. 800-456-1191, www.seventhgeneration.com.
CONCERNS: Hydrochloric or oxalic acid, calcium hypochlorite: Irritant, toxic, corrosive.
STAY SAFE: The American Pregnancy Association recommends keeping the area well ventilated and wearing protective gloves. Never mix with other household cleaners.
GO GREEN: Ecover Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner. $4. 800-449-4925, www.ecover.com.
CONCERNS: Ammonia, petroleum, glycol ethers: Irritant; toxic; corrosive; May damage the nervous system.
STAY SAFE: “Don’t engage in overkill,” says Tom Natan, Ph.D., research director for the National Environmental Trust. Wear gloves and use proper ventilation.
GO GREEN: Planet All Purpose Cleaner. $3. 800-858-8449, www.planetinc.com.
CONCERNS: Ammonia: Irritant; toxic; corrosive; may contain solvents and glycol ethers; may effect the nervous system.
STAY SAFE: Use sparingly and with adequate ventilation. Close container when not in use.
GO GREEN: Bi-O-Kleen Glass Cleaner. $5. 800-477-0188, www.bi-o-kleen.com.
CONCERNS: Ammonia, potassium or sodium hydroxide: Irritant, toxic, corrosive.
STAY SAFE: The American Pregnancy Association recommends not using oven cleaners because the space is too confined to be well ventilated.
GO GREEN: Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus Concentrate. $5. 800-335-3267, www.ecos.com.
Corrosive: May destroy living tissue (skin or eyes) on contact.
Irritant: May cause substantial injury to the area of the body upon contact.
Toxic: May cause injury or illness upon ingestion, absorption or inhalation.