Keys to a healthy home

Have you ever looked at the contents label of your household cleaning items and wondered what language it was printed in? Unless biochemistry is a personal passion, it is easy to be unaware of the many toxic chemicals that we use to wipe our kitchen counters, floors, clean our clothes and family’s pillowcases. These products are a constant guest in our homes, and they have wide-ranging effects often unknown by their hosts.

Luckily, with the environmental movement finally gaining major public support, eco-friendly and non-toxic home products are becoming more widely available. On Kaua‘i, the reasons for using these products go beyond the home, as our ocean and fresh water supplies are a shared responsibility. For a cleaner home, a healthy family and safer world, start with the tools we use each day to make a difference.

So what happens when you use a traditional cleaning product? The chemicals linger in the air for hours after use, leave residue on surfaces, that can later be absorbed through skin and stick to pet fur. If these residues could be measured, we would see that they are literally covering all of our furniture, eating utensils, clothing and home fabrics. Using them day after day, the build up of this toxic substance is staggering. In an independent study conducted on Oregon woman over a 15-year period, those who worked inside the home had a 54 percent higher cancer rate than those who worked outside. The study suggested that the chronic chemical exposure contributed to this high rate. When there are alternatives readily available in our local stores, why not protect yourself and your loved ones from this risk?

Papaya’s Natural Food in Kapa‘a has just expanded their home and beauty section to include a much broader selection of healthy, toxic-free home products. Environmentally conscious companies such as Seventh Generation and EcoVer make everything needed to clean the home nn from kitchen to bath. Liz Tidwell, the store’s morning grocery manager, explained why she uses the products in her own house and why she recommends them to all,

“They are as effective as most other cleaners you can find,” she said. “We use them in the store to mop the floors and clean the shelves. These are products you physically touch and breathe, and at the end of the day you can feel better knowing that what you are using won’t end up hurting the oceans or land.”

For centuries people used fermented liquids such as vinegar to wash and disinfect their dwellings. Cutting edge environmental companies look to these old folk recipes to work with, rather than against, Mother Nature. Many of these eco-friendly items contain natural oils, such as citrus or lavender, and work well as grease-cutters while adding a lovely smell. While the majority of conventional products contain petroleum based cleaners that are non-renewable and continue to over-use a precious natural resource, most eco-friendly cleaners use a vegetable base. Most laundry detergents brighten whites through florescent chemicals that end up in the ocean and poison aquatic life, while eco-friendly detergents use organic enzyme compounds that eat the stains without dangerous by-products.

According to the Breast Cancer Fund, out of the 85,000 chemicals in use today, a staggering 90 perfect have not been tested for the effects on human health. Unless we retreat to the biosphere bubble, it is inevitable that we will be confronted with land, air, and water pollution in some form or another nearly every day. It is up to the compassionate consumer to take the initiative to change small things in their own home to reduce the pollutants that we live with.

“We live on a small island — our environment is precious,” Tidwell said. “We need to become more and more conscious of how we live and how it effects everything.”

• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or


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