Toxic Cleaning Products: Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key!

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A new study published in the September issue of Pediatrics found the careless use of toxic household cleaning products continues to poison over 11,000 young children each year.

Using national data, researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio examined the emergency room records of approximately 267,000 children under the age of five who experienced cleaning product-related injuries. The researchers found a 46 percent decrease in poisoning incidences from 1990 to 2006. Parental behavior - keeping cleaners locked away from curious little hands - and the use of child-resistant caps were credited for the drop in poisonings.

That's the good news.

The study also emphasized that nearly half of the poisonings resulted from spray bottle cleaning products and remained high noting that bleach continues to be the product most often associated with accidental poisoning.

Echoing the study's authors, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reacted to the new report by reminding parents to lock up their household cleaning products.

Although this new study serves as a reminder that it is important to securely store cleaning products out of the reach of small children, it fails to encourage the use of safer, "green" household cleaning alternatives. Even with the most conscientious parents, accidents can still happen. These accidental poisonings are less likely to occur if household cleaners are non-toxic to begin with.

Which brings to mind a pet peeve of mine...

Because manufacturers realize there are more and more health conscientious consumers who want to protect themselves and their children's health by using safer, non-toxic cleaning products, they have developed a clever marketing plan aimed at influencing the purchasing public.

This deceptive advertizing concept is known as "green washing." There are many products that claim to be non-toxic or use the word "green" on their label and in their promotional materials but are not really green at all. Green washing has become a successful ploy designed to make busy consumers think they are purchasing an environmentally safe, non-toxic cleaner. But when you actually examine the ingredients and warnings on some of these so-called "green" cleaners, you soon realize the products are anything but "green."

Simple Green, for example, is a very popular household cleaner that has been criticized for its "green washing" claims. The product's label says it is "non-toxic." However, a simple search of the primary ingredients identifies 2-butoxyethanol as a potential human carcinogen.

Consumers should be cautious when they see words like "eco" or "environmentally friendly" and "non-toxic" on labels because there are no standards for these terms when it comes to conventional household cleaners.

This is one reason I wrote my first book, Green This! Volume 1: Greening Your Cleaning and developed the Greening the Cleaning (GTC) line of cleaning products.

Don't fall for the pretense of wild claims on some household cleaners just because the name or label contains the word "green" - and be aware that there are no regulations that require manufacturers to be honest.

Always read the warning labels and examine the ingredients and be wary of products that don't disclose their full ingredient list. If there are products known to contain possible carcinogens, neurotoxins or endocrine disrupting chemicals in them, they are not "non-toxic" or "green."

For more information on green cleaning products, visit

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to For more information go to