Lots of strong chemicals have entered our homes and daily routines during the last fifty years. The chemical industry has expanded hugely since World War II and consumers are always hungry for new products. Unfortunately homemakers don't always realize that products might be hazardous. We may be a little too relaxed about following manufacturer's instructions. When is the last time you opened windows and doors before using a chlorine-containing cleaner? And doesn't opening windows and doors conflict with your need to save energy costs? Surely we shouldn't be letting cooled or heated air escape. In fact, new home construction has for decades been trying to seal up homes, preventing fresh air circulation. When you finish using a strong cleaning product, do you remember to clean the container mouth and seal it back to as air-tight a condition as possible? Maybe not always. Have you ever sat back and tried to count every chemical product stored somewhere in your house? What about those products at the back of the top shelves? You know, the ones that have been sitting there for a few years. Well, what emerges here is the modern equation for indoor air pollution: more hazardous chemicals in the home, plus less ventilation, equals more acute and chronic family exposure to chemicals.
Some hardworking homemakers have been caught dramatically unawares exposing young and vulnerable family members to enough household chemicals to make them sick. This was the case recently described in People Magazine [People Weekly, June 12, 2000 v53 i23 p87+] of new mother Amilya Antonetti and her baby David. Amilya discovered that her newborn son became so ill on the days she cleaned the home that he had to be taken to the emergency room. David turned out to be sensitive to the powerful cleaning chemicals used by Amilya, especially ammonia. Amilya replaced those cleaning products with non-toxic alternatives, and went on to develop her own line of safer products, "Soapworks" [see below].
So what exactly are the chemical culprits present in homes today? The average American home contains 63 regularly purchased hazardous chemical products. [The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA defines hazardous chemicals as flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive] These chemicals fall into four main groups: cleaners and polishes, paints and solvents, auto products, and pesticides. By volume, these chemicals may total three to ten gallons per household.
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