Cleaning products are important for healthy and appealing living and working conditions. Yet they can also have a negative impact on human health and the environment. Here’s what you need to know to choose products that are GOOD for people and planet.
There is a variety of issues to be aware of when shopping for cleaning products, both for home use or commercial purposes. For example, some products can contribute to health problems such as skin irritation and asthma, and when discharged into waterways, long-lasting toxins can threaten water quality and wildlife. The following guide will take you through the key things to be mindful of when selecting your cleaning products.
Is it GOOD for the Planet?
A key place to start is the ingredients list. Does the product contain palm oil? If so, has this come from a sustainably managed plantation? Irresponsible palm oil farming can lead to deforestation, habitat loss for threatened species, poor air quality, and threats to the rights of local communities.
Phosphorus is another key ingredient to look out for. Discharge of phosphorus compounds can damage freshwater and coastal ecosystems by introducing too many minerals and nutrients, leading to algal blooms. Some cleaning products may also contain long-lasting toxic substances, which can harm aquatic life in surface waters and streams.
A cleaning product to be truly sustainable, it should also be created in a way that avoids over consumption of resources and the generation of waste across its entire lifecycle.
Is it GOOD for People?
It’s important that the cleaning products you purchase are not only safe for you to use, but they were also safe for the workers who helped manufacture them. Conventional cleaning products can harbour ingredients that cause a range of adverse effects on health, ranging from the mild (such as minor skin irritation) to the very serious (such as being a potential carcinogen).
Keep an eye out for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exposure to VOCs is one of the main culprits behind Sick Building Syndrome, where occupants of a building complain of headaches, fatigue and other symptoms that disappear after leaving the building. The health issues caused by VOCs in indoor environments depend on the amount of VOCs present in the air, the length of time they are present, and how frequently people are exposed to them. People with allergies and asthma are particularly at risk. If you’re asthmatic you should also be careful when selecting products with added fragrances.
Another ingredient to look for, particularly in products marketed as antibacterial or antimicrobial, is Triclosan. Some studies have shown that exposure to high levels of the compound is associated with interference with certain hormones in animals, including estrogen and thyroid hormones. Other studies have linked triclosan to the growth of liver tumours in mice. Numerous studies have linked triclosan use with the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, representing a potential public health risk.
Last but not least, does the company making the product provide safe working conditions and equal opportunities to their workers?
Why buy GECA certified products?
We’ve taken the hard work out of finding cleaning products that are GOOD to people and planet! When a product is certified against GECA’s Cleaning Products Standard (CPv2.2ii-2012), you can be sure that the product has been assessed to meet environmental, human health and ethical impact criteria. GECA certification removes doubt and confusion and makes identifying environmentally and socially preferable products easier.
GECA certified cleaning products are:
Better for the environment
• Limit on substances harmful to aquatic environments
• Increased biodegradability
• Reduced and preferable packaging
• Lower waste generation and resource consumption
• No phosphorus
• Support of sustainably sourced palm oil and palm kernel oil
Better for human health
• Less harmful chemicals
• Minimised VOC content
• Restrictions on fragrances and enzymes
• No known carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive
toxins as ingredients
Better for ethical considerations
• No unsubstantiated claims (greenwashing)
• Workers can expect fair pay, equal opportunity, and a
safe working environment
We currently have 18 licensees certified under our Cleaning Products Standard, which covers general purpose cleaners, sanitary cleaners, laundry cleaning agents and hand-dishwashing detergents. These products also contribute towards achieving credit points for projects being certified under the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Performance tool. Our standard also contributes to meeting WELL features under the WELL Building Certification.