My son Spencer had just turned three when, one day, I noticed he was coughing a lot. At first, I didn't think anything of it. Kids get sick. I told him to lie down, thinking he'd be fine -- it was just a cough. A short time later, I realized that his heart was pounding, as if it were trying to beat right out of his chest.
Terrified, my husband, Roger, and I rushed him to the hospital. We spent the next two nights in the ICU. The doctors told us he had something called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome -- a form of asthma. Neither my husband nor I had any family history of asthma, going back four generations. So we concluded that the cause was environmental.
It didn't take long to discover that the U.S. is in the midst of an asthma epidemic. The number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million in the last decade. About one in 10 American children currently suffer from asthma -- a nearly threefold increase from 3.6 percent in 1980. A suspected cause of these stunning changes?
At least six well-designed epidemiological studies have pointed to one answer: A strong link between the use of certain cleaning products and asthma. That stopped me cold. The cause of my son's asthma may have been me. I may have been poisoning my own son.
The good news is that this is one area where easy, affordable solutions are available. First and foremost, you should avoid what can be the strongest asthma triggering chemicals present in conventional cleaners such as bleach, hydrochloric acid and ammonia. And as we discussed last week, these chemicals are often mixed together to create an even more dangerous combination. Next go out and buy yourself non-toxic, biodegradable, green cleaning products.
1. Gather all your cleaning products and read the labels.
2. Notice how dangerous and toxic they are. Then, take a deep breath (but not near the cleaning products).
3. Take all the ones that say "danger," "poison" or contain chlorine bleach and ammonia and put them in a garbage bag.
4. Call your local sanitation department and ask them how to dispose of them safely.
5. Buy green cleaning products, and breathe deeply and safely.
By the way, my son is 11 and hasn't been to the emergency room in 1,825 days. But who's counting?