Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bye, bye, borax

By Michael Bergman, Toxic Free Tips coordinator, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction

Ecology is pulling a popular video from its YouTube site over concerns about borax. The Greener Cleaner video shows how you can make a “do-it-yourself,” multi-purpose cleaner.

That infomercial-style video has been part of Ecology’s effort to help get the word out about alternatives to harsher household cleaners.

However, something happened recently to make Ecology revisit that video. It turns out that the alternative cleaner recipe it features isn’t as safe as we thought it was.

That’s because the recipe contains borax, a common product you can find in the laundry aisle. However, boric acid – which makes up more than 90 of borax – was recently added to the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) list of Chemicals of Very High Concern. Chemicals are added to that list when they are linked to human health dangers such as cancer or reproductive problems.

That listing makes borax a problem in two ways. First, we want to provide you with information on the safest alternatives available. And second, Ecology relied – in part – on ECHA’s standards in putting together its own list of Chemicals of High Concern for Children as part of Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act.

At Ecology we try not to think in terms of ‘safe’ alternatives to every chemical product. Instead, we aim for the safest alternative we know about at the time and then pass that information on to you. And if we find something safer later on, we’ll tell you about as soon as we know.

If you are interested in a good alternative cleaner you can mix up at home without borax, try the following:
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap – not detergent

  • 3/4 cup warm water
Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle, put the cap on and shake it up. This mixture both cleans and disinfects.

You can get a free, complete set of our safer-cleaner recipes. Just visit our website at www.ecy.wa.gov/toxicfreetips. Or phone our toll-free Toxic Free Tips line and speak to our staff or leave a message with your mailing address. The number is 1-866-939-9991.

1 comment:

Constantine La said...

Yeah, there are so many boric acid uses ranging from killing ants to yeast infections but, if you think about it, something that kills ants might also be harmful to higher organisms.