This is actually a rather difficult post for me to write. Not literally, but, culturally, and as someone who doesn’t want to offend her partner or family – and who is trembling with indignation at her fellow Hispanics whom have created these chemical abominations.
At first, I was going to share what was, hopefully, a funny story of my tossing out all of my abuelas cleaning products, and replacing them with healthier ones. As her maid did the cleaning, and was my partner in crime, we thought that we would quietly accomplish a Green Caper, without abuela being the wiser. How often, and why, would abuela ever check the cleaning closet, reasoned I. (Clearly, my major was not in Logic.) Within a week abuela had “smelled” the difference, checked the cleaning closet, and sent someone to replace the “tonterias” that I had brought ALL THE WAY from the United States to Panama. (Yes. I was blessed with TWO abuelas. One Cuban, one Panamanian. This story is about the latter.)
My abuela had asthma. I sent her endless articles on the reasons why she should stop wearing her perfume, and using most of the products that, yes, I realize she had used since the 50’s, but that had now been exposed as being toxic. I also explained that I would send her healthier replacements, and that by doing so, reduce her exposure to PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL KNOWN PROVEN – WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT asthma irritators. Yes, yes, my love. That’s very sweet. I’ll read the article after I return from my Bridge game at the Club.
Return to Fateful Week:
Staring at the cupboard that I had paid luggage overage to purify, I was at wits end. There, almost mocking me, was “Fabuloso”, amongst other coy toxic cleaner culprits. Being purple, it stood out. (I could write a dissertation on the reason why purple is associated with Royalty due to the rareness of the dye in ancient times, but shall spare you. We have more pressing matters.) Fabuloso. Obviously, this translates into “Fabulous” in English. Right. Clearly, Colgate – Palmolive, the manufacturer of this fabulous product has a rather warped view of what fabulous means.
What’s in this cleaner that my abuela, and millions of mother’s across the globe trust to “clean” their homes?
Gracias for asking.
As the U.S. government doesn’t require full disclosure of the ingredients in – oh – most things – as to allow companies to hide behind the “but then EVERYONE will KNOW and COPY us argument, I shall do my best, with what is disclosed:
From the manufacturers themselves:
- Sulfuric Acid
- 2 Phenoxyethanol
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Propylene Glycol Propyl Ether
- Alklbenzenesolfonic Acid
So. Those are just chemical terms that we can’t pronounce, save for the first one, that sounds like something a writer may choose to have Mr Take Over the World finally off James Bond in a vat of. (Insert white Persian cat image here.)
Allow me to offer a link to each from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and then a quick and dirty, (and I mean “dirty”), sum up.
- Sulfuric Acid: Irritates basically everything. Don’t touch it, or breathe it in.
- 2 Phenoxyethanol: Hold your breath. Oh, and for the love of all that is Holy – don’t light up.
- Sodium Hydroxide: Again. Don’t breathe. Or, open your eyes. And I quote: “Because it may be considered public enemy number one for causing chemical burns of the eye, sodium hydroxide has been the chemical caustic most extensively studied in animal and clinical investigations.” You just can’t make this stuff up.
- Propylene Glycol Propyl Ether: As long as you don’t touch or breathe it in, you’ll be fine.
- Alklbenzenesolfonic Acid: Direct quote with emphasis from the CDC: “Do NOT let this chemical enter the environment.” That uppercase “NOT”, is from their Data Sheet, not mine. Fabulous.
Now. Here is a bit more intel from the Environmental Working Group: HERE. Note all the “F’s”.
Right. So this ONE “fabulous” product – just this one – somewhat ubiquitous product, packs quite the pulmonary punch.
Tragically, I lost my grandmother a year after a tried to “clean” her home. I will always wonder if years of exposure to chemicals like these denied her a bit more time.
I now fill a hamper with a few books on healthy living, along with a few starter products, as gifts for mama friends. It’s not a spa day certificate, but eventually they will admit that it was the “best gift, ever”.
Because, it is.
Happy Spring Cleaning!