WellBeing

Cleaned by nature

Supporting a global industry worth tens of billions of dollars, our quest for sparklingly clean, sweet-smelling homes has spawned a vast array of products. But dig beneath the familiar, friendly packaging and marketing claims so many of us inherently trust and you’ll find a scourge of chemical irritants, toxins and carcinogens. Ranging from petrochemical surfactants and solvents to antibacterials, fungicides and synthetic fragrances, most of these ingredients are unlisted and untested. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.

An unregulated industry

There’s no legal requirement for the ingredients in cleaning products (technically classified as industrial chemicals) to be listed on the container, says Jo Immig, co-ordinator of the National Toxics Network. “It may tell you some generic chemical class but won’t specifically list all the ingredients,” she says.

Highly toxic products like bleach might have a warning label on them, but with some 30,000 chemicals in Australia never having been assessed by the regulator, it’s important to be cautious, Immig advises. There’s actually

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