Our culture's move to become ecologically responsible influences the way parents raise their children. From food to medical options, parents are constantly inundated with "green" choices. Presently, for example, these choices connect directly to the cleaning products parents purchase.

More and more evidence continues to accumulate with regard to the damaging effects from chemicals used in household cleaning products. Autism’s more prominent place in mainstream news media coverage has prompted scientists to examine a possible link between environmental causes rather than just genetic dispositions. For more information check out the International Society for Autism Research website, www.autism-insar.org.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (Oregon.gov/DEQ) states that “many household products contain hazardous ingredients that can be harmful when you use them.” This information becomes more pertinent when additionally examined in context with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Household Products Database which lists ingredients and their health effects.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers’ 2006 Annual Report identifies household cleaning substances “most frequently involved in pediatric exposures” affecting 120,250 children five and under. 20,000 of those exposures involved bleach and ammonia. Two of the most toxic ingredients, chlorine and ammonia, can be easily eliminated from parents’ cleaning options.

These respiratory irritants especially harm the skin, eyes, and lungs of young children. Because of the size and continued physical and social development of young kids, they are closer to the ground where chemicals settle, place objects readily into their mouths, and more easily absorb these chemicals into their skin.

The alternatives that exist for parents are simple, safe, affordable, and have the added dimension of being controlled by mom and/or dad:

1. Distilled white vinegar – use this to disinfect and clean

2. Baking soda – a deodorizer and cleaner

3. Lemon juice – for cutting grime, polishing, and smells good, too

4. Essential oils – lemon, clove, cinnamon, and lavender oils disinfect, clean and help eliminate odors

There are several excellent websites that provide basic information about essential oils; www.housekeepingchannel.com and takingcharge.csh.umn.edu.

To create a general liquid cleanser for floors and countertops, add ¼ cup of vinegar and 5 drops each of lemon, clove, and cinnamon oils to a gallon of water. If you need to scrub, sprinkle baking soda on the surface. For dirtier areas, add 5 drops of lemon oil and ¼ cup of lemon juice.

Living green or “going green” need not involve a major overhaul of parents and children’s lives or routines. Parents understand that there is always a continuing effort on their part to advance and learn for the lives of their children. To paraphrase the famous American psychologist, Abraham Maslow: It’s reasonable to assume that in almost every human being there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth.