Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Forsaking Cleanliness and...Godliness

Most Argentine households I've come across are spic'n'span for two reasons: firstly, these households all have at least a part-time domestic helper if not a live-in maid; and secondly, people seem to favour using a large amount of cleaning products. In addition, many apartment buildings have a live-in caretaker to maintain the sheen on marble hallways and wood-panelled elevators. Cleanliness seems to be truly next to Godliness in the minds of many here.

I am not sure if the ghastly level of pollution and the dirty streets fuel porteños' desire to keep every surface in their homes flawlessly bleached and polished. However, few are aware that cleaning products are producing a very different kind of pollution to our homes.

When our domestic goddess first came to work in our household, she asked me to stock up on an array of cleaning products; most of them bleaching agents, Blem, and various strong smelling sprays. Every time she left, she was proud of the "clean smelling" apartment she was handing back to us. We didn't have the heart to tell her that we were choking in the "clean" fumes; our eyes were itchy and red, I was sneezing until the "cleanliness" wore off.

It took me months to work up the courage to tell her to tone down on the products. Since she comes twice a week and we have no kids or pets, I have asked her to mop the floor with just hot water and only add a smaller amount of cleaning agent to the water every two weeks.

Now that we are expecting a baby, it is even more crucial that we limit the amount of chemicals in our home. I am glad that I plugged up the courage to talk to her about our concerns. We are fortunate that our goddess is the open-minded kind; after we explained to her our rationale she gladly took to the task... we now live "happily everafter".

The following are some examples of cleaning products commonly found in domestic environments which are damaging to health...

Aerosol Products:
Aerosolized chemicals are absorbed through lungs and quickly pass into bloodstream. Damage brain, lungs, kidneys, heart, nervous system. Put solution in hand sprays.

Air Freshener:
Most contain carcinogenic ingredients, which can be stored in body fat. May cause birth defects, liver, kidney and brain damage. Plants, essential oils and potpourri are effective and less harmful options.

All-Purpose Cleaner/Degreaser:
Damaging to eyes, skin and lungs. Toxic to nervous system. May contain ingredients that are linked to cancer, reproductive disorders.

Antibacterial Cleaner:
Some may be immunotoxicants- associated with liver damage. Low-dose of antibiotics pose long-term danger- weaken immune system and breed "super-germs". Try using essential oils with anti-bacterial properties such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, etc.

Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner:
Carcinogenic; causes liver, kidney, and nervous-system damage. Corrosive; extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages.

Bleach:
Corrosive; damaging to eyes, skin and lungs. Dioxins do not break down. Contaminate water and devastate ecosystem and wildlife.


May the Lesser God bless our lesser household. Amen.

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