Many of the cleaning products we use every day may have unwanted side effects.
Many of us do not realize the volume of chemical exposures we are subjected to on a daily basis. From the pollution in the air to the cosmetics we use on our bodies to the fabric next to our skin, many elements of our modern lifestyle bring with them the risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances.
(It is important to note that these are both natural, and unnatural chemical exposures. Many falsely assume that because a substance is “natural”, that it is somehow not harmful. Mycotoxins are a perfect example of chemicals that are completely natural that can cause serious harm––as are other natural compounds like uranium, mustard gas, and rattlesnake venom!)
One oft-overlooked method of chemical exposure is the cleaning products we use in our indoor spaces. These can be carpet, bathroom and kitchen cleaners; disinfectants; degreasers; and any other number of cleaning solvents or solutions we regularly use in our home.
Back in February, a study was released in Europe detailing the damage caused by cleaning agents in female cleaning workers. Their conclusion was that sprayed cleaning products can diminish lung function in these women to the same extent that smoking a pack of cigarettes per day for 10-20 years can! The study noted that even women who use the cleaners as little as once per week can experience diminished lung function.
Diminished lung function can pave the way for serious diseases, like COPD.
How Do We Know What Is Safe?
Particularly in our home, choosing which cleaning products we use constitutes a choice we can make. But how can we know what is safe to use in our home?
Unfortunately, there is little by way of regulation from the government when it comes to these products. Fortunately, there are groups like The Environmental Working Group (EWG, www.ewg.org) that are independent, non-profit organizations who asses the safety of consumer products. In addition to providing lists of cleaners and other consumer products that meet their stringent lists of criteria, they offer some other tips on how to protect your lungs from damage:
– Avoid spray cleaners when possible. If you do use some sort of spray, spray directly onto a cloth rather than a surface, which will lessen the amount of aerosolized cleaning material. Unfortunately, the efficient nature of our modern buildings is good at keeping indoor air trapped, which is good for efficiency, but bad at keeping the air quality high. Any indoor pollutants will likely remain trapped.
– Cleaning with regular soap, water, and baking soda is often sufficient at removing household grime and mold. Often, harsh cleaners are not necessary.
– Abrasive sponges and microfiber tools are often good alternatives to harsh cleansers, too.