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Did you know that most chemical substances have not been cleared for safety? Of the 80,000 chemicals on the market today, only 2% have been screened by the EPA. Substances like formaldehyde, phthalates, triclosan, and bisphenols have been linked to growing health concerns like cancers, learning disorders, and asthma. Shockingly, many of these chemicals are in products we use every day to clean our homes and businesses.

Although Maryland is a leader in state-level chemical protections, thousands of toxic chemicals remain unchecked. Meanwhile, at the federal level, Congress is in the process of revamping the decades-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but it looks like the reforms will still fall short of protecting our families from toxic chemicals.

The good news is that half of the stores surveyed in Baltimore sell a certified non-toxic cleaning product. Unfortunately, access is often limited to northern and southern parts of the city, so check our resource guide to find out where ‘green’ products are available in your neighborhood. In the meantime, help keep your employees, your customers, and your family safe from chemical exposure with these tips for ‘green’ cleaning:

1. Don’t trust a green-looking label.

Companies know that most of us want healthier, safer products – that’s why many labels in the cleaning aisle today look ‘green’ and ‘natural.’ But be careful not to fall for ‘greenwashing’ – the practice of labeling a product as eco-friendly or green without actually assuring its safety. Being a smart consumer means questioning the label, which brings us to…

2. Be a label-reader.

Most of us don’t know what all the big words on labels mean – the most we can do is look out for dangerous ingredients like ammonia, chlorine, benzene, parabens, and phosphates. However, manufactures are not required to disclose or label all chemicals used, making it even harder to choose safer alternatives.

Some brands are leading the way by disclosing the ingredients on the product or online. Reading and researching ingredients can help keep your family safe!

3. Look for the green guarantee.

In the absence of strong state and federal disclosure laws and chemical regulation, third-party certifiers are picking up the slack. After testing products for human and environmental safety, programs like Green Seal, EcoLogo, and the EPA’s Safer Choice give products their stamp of approval. Look for their logos, often found on the back label of certified non-toxic cleaning products!

4. Air it out.

Just five minutes of open windows and fresh air every day can improve your home’s air quality and reduce some toxic risks. In businesses, certain cleaning products like bleach are meant for ‘after-hours’ use so especially children and other vulnerable people are not exposed.

5. Go natural!

Before we had ‘fancy’ cleaning supplies made from synthetic chemicals, we used vinegar and baking soda to clean our homes. For a truly safer alternative to harmful chemicals in cleaning products, return to your heritage and use these time-tested methods. Best of all, they are already in the cupboard!

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