Organic Cleaners-Just As Worthless as Organic Foods?

There have already been a couple blogs about the health effects (or lack thereof) of eating organic foods. But I had to wonder if organic cleaning products suffered from the same misconception that they are somehow better for us than the standard-quo.

"Green" products, specifically household cleaners, carry the label of being better than commercial cleaning products in all respects. There are certainly problems with these commercial cleaning products and the chemicals they contain that should not be ignored. For example, phthalates (often added to cleaning solutions as a fragrance) are known to cause disruptions in the endocrine and reproductive systems. Standard cleaning products also contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which the EPA says can cause cancer in animals and possibly humans. The ingredients in cleaning products can also threaten the environment and water quality, as they become more toxic as they break-down.


We can avoid all these dangers by switching to organic cleaning products, or so I thought. An article published by The Hindustan Times in 2008 shared some not-so-reassuring findings from a study done by the Organic Consumers Association. A Minnesota-based research team found that out of 100 organic/natural cleansers tested (including soaps, shampoos and cleaning products), 47 of them contained 1,4-Dioxane, a cancer-causing compound. The FDA discourages the use of the compound and the state of California classifies it as "cancer-causing".

So are these products worth it? I'm sure most consumers who buy these organic cleaning products don't bother to look at the ingredient label, but assume it is safe simply because of the "green" or "organic" label. Sales have decreased in the past few years thanks to the recession and the massive price differences between standard and organic cleaning products. If you're someone who considers yourself a diehard consumer of organic goods, will you continue to use these products? They appear to be better than standard products in most respects but they certainly don't come without their share of risks.


You bring up a good point. Do people just buy these products because they're labeled "organic." Do they even know what organic means, and what they're buying? I think more people need to be educated on what they're doing. I did a blog about organic foods, thinking i would find that organic is so much better as most people act, but actually found it very hard to convince people to go organic based on facts. We seemed to be very influenced by our surroundings. When organic becomes the new fad and people are talking about how much better it is, with out research many people just hop on board. Is that just our human instinct? To believe what our surroundings are telling us?

I think that many people (sadly) are captured by headlines meant to lure them in and fail to do any sort of follow-up research. That has been evidenced in a variety of the topics we've covered both in class and in our blogs. The whole organic issue has really exemplified this, judging by the number of blog posts written by people who are "shocked" when they find that there is little effect on health of eating organic vs. non-organic. I think misconceptions similar to the ones related to organic food may exist in the idea that one diet is better than another, i.e. gluten-free vs. vegetarian vs. vegan.
However, I think that this issue is one of the missions of the class as a whole. I know how I read and interpret science in the news has definitely changed. By being more aware consumers of science, we can avoid these misconceptions and make decisions based on science that are best for us and our lifestyles.

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