Despite what people think - household chemicals are neither 'good' nor 'bad' by definition.

Household chemicals are those that harness the power of chemistry to 'work' for us.

Chemistry is what happens when you mix two or more chemicals/elements together. Under the right circumstances a 'chemical reaction' takes place that changes one or more of the original 'participants'. It also often creates something new, a by-product of the chemical reaction.

Chemical reactions take place when you spray bleach on to a hard surface to disinfect germs. They also happens when you mix vinegar with baking soda to clean your drain or coffee pot. Many household chemicals react more efficiently at higher temperatures, which is why you may be instructed to use hot water, or heat up the vinegar.

Pretty much every regular or eco-friendly cleaning product on the grocery store shelf uses chemistry, and so do a good number of home-made cleaners.

There are parts of chemical cleaning that might be worrisome though: the chemicals themselves might be dangerous in some way, or the by-products that the chemical reaction produces.

Corporate Responsibility and Product Testing

Both Canada and the United States rely on corporations to determine the safety of the products that they sell.

In the past, companies were permitted to sell products and the onus was on the consumer advocate to 'prove' that a specific chemical was harmful. As you can imagine, this didn't happen very often due to the costs involved. With mounting evidence that many chemicals in use today are indeed harmful to humans and the environment, the laws have been changed.

Now, with every new chemical introduced into household cleaners and personal care items, the onus is on the manufacturer to prove that that single chemical is safe, or properly labelled. They are not, however, required to go back and provide evidence on the over 80,000 chemicals already in use.

Only the most dangerous chemicals are government regulated however.

Universities are now starting to research the long term risks of exposure to many common cleaning chemicals, and to the combination of chemicals that most of us are exposed to. The results are not heartening.

For more detailed information on specific products you can visit the Chemical Scorecard which maintains well-documented product ingredients lists and commentary on their safety.

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