A study on home cleaning routines and products, at once, has looked at spray and other cleaners and their effect on lung damage and impairment. This study was done in Norway and the key findings are really helpful for women to reconsider their cleaning routines:
The study looked at 6000 women over a 20 years time span investigating the long-term health impact on respiratory health, how lung function declined and how airway obstruction advanced. The study contained both people that cleaned in their house, but also professional cleaners.
The study looked at forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume, while both decline already by mid-20s, the study’s observations have concluded that the use of cleaners even if once a week accelerated this decline and especially those that cleaned as a profession, the lung damage was compared to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10-20 years.
Researchers observed that cleaning products’ irritating ingredients cause damage via different effects, some being:
- Triggering immune system dysfunction
- Promoting inflammation in mucous membranes
- Cellular damage at structural and tissue level
Immune System Dysfunction
This doesn’t come as news but we can look at a known study from 2012, ”Microbial exposure during early life has persistent effects on natural killer T cell function” – testing immune responses of mice to different environments (germ-free and bacterial exposure). The conclusion was that the germ-free mice had much higher levels of inflammation in the colon and lung area when compared to the mice with normal germ exposure (which had healthy immune responses).
The germ-free mice were also observed to develop symptoms similar to ulcerative colitis and asthma. An interesting and very important observation was also that once the mice were exposed to a normal environment with natural bacterial growth, their immune system responses balanced out and successfully healed of their inflammatory conditions.
Harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
The majority of cleaners you would purchase at your local store and use on a daily basis provoke hazardous air conditions due to the fact that they contain high amounts of VOC. A study in 2006 has noted that this is because of the glycol ethers (toxic air contaminants) and terpenes reacting with formaldehyde and ultra fine particles in the air creating lung-damaging ozone.
An example are limonene and linalool that are two synthetic fragrances often used in citrus-scented products, terpene chemicals.
Children suffering from rhinitis
We have a study from 2016 coming from China of 2300 children from different schools coming from homes where the usage of cleaners was frequent, were found to suffer from rhinitis (inflammation of the nose lining), by 29 to 97%. The higher the chemical burden was, the more frequent the rhinitis cases were.
A 2010 review study published in the Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology found striking evidence linking both professional cleaners and homemakers, as well as healthcare professionals, to work-exacerbated and new-onset asthma. This wound include:
- Spray cleaners
- Chlorine bleach
- Other kinds of disinfectants
Various researchers (study here) already linked the usage of certain cleaners using inflammatory ingredients with the increase in asthma. We can also add to this the harm of plenty of scents used in cleaners that provoke chest tightness, respiratory issues and wheezing – for that you can read more here.
Most cleaning products can be the culprits behind your contact dermatitis rashes (study here), but make no mistake, it can take a while to realise and get to know what exactly is the reason behind your constant rash! One component to look for and avoid is known as ”methylisothiazolinone” and it appears also in products that are labelled as ”natural” or ”ecological”, as it has been researched.
Toxicity in chlorine bleach mixtures
One of the most commonly used safety advertisements on bleach packages always call for ”not mixing it with other cleaning products”. Why is that? When mixed with ammonia, the chlorine in bleach converts to chloramine gas and that can become very harmful for both children and adults’ systems, producing: nausea, coughing, teary eyes, chest pain, throat, eye and nose irritation and even pneumonia.
Ammonia is already in glass cleaners, bathroom cleaners (so most likely are used together with chlorine bleach whether before or after) and most importantly, it also appears in human urine – which means, cleaning your surfaces that might contain urine with a chlorine mix, might result in higher toxicity!
As a general rule remember to reduce if not avoid the usage of chlorine and especially avoid MIXING chlorine with the following:
- DO NOT mix chlorine with acidic cleaners (vinegar, dishwashing detergent, window/glass cleaners, toilet cleaners, brick/concrete cleaners, drain cleaners, rust removers)
- DO NOT mix chlorine with alcohol
- DO NOT mix chlorine with other cleaners you might have around
- DO NOT mix chlorine with water, as it might create chloroform gas
This is yet another reason why you should invest in a water filter that could filter monochloramines together with other unwanted viruses, bacteria, inorganic sediments, fluoride, etc. 25% of tap water in USA (f.e.) is treated with monochloramines.
Now you’re probably wondering what can you safely use and that wouldn’t harm neither you or your children? I put together a list of products I personally use for my house instead of purchasing cleaners from the store.
Top 10 best alternatives for cleaning all sorts of surfaces
- Water filters that reduce or eliminate chlorine (bleach) from your water system, whether that is your shower or tap drinking water – both of them are equally important as they come in contact with your body.
- Distilled vinegar (so just vinegar on its own) might not smell best but it works wonders to clean surfaces whether fat or just dirt.
- Essential oils, what I do is mix vinegar with couple drops of lemon essential oil (that naturally kills harmful bacteria) in a glass pulveriser as the acid in lemon oil can wear off plastics.
- Homemade all-purpose spray by adding 5 drops lemon essential oil + 5 drops tea tree essential oil/or cinnamon bark essential oil (if you’re in a household with small children) mixed in a glass pulveriser with just enough warm water (might be irritant to animals, so be careful!)
- Deep cleaning, by mixing 70g baking soda + 120 ml vinegar + 5 drops lemon essential oil
- Mould remover, by mixing 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil + 5 drops tea tree essential oil/cinnamon bark essential oil (especially if you’re in a household with children and pets) in a glass pulveriser with warm water.
- Laundry scents and cleaner, you can add this to your unscented (and clean) laundry formula or just use it in a mix of Castile soap for each load, add about 15 drops of lemon essential oil. Be careful and see whether your child has any allergy to lemon essential oil as it can be irritant.
- You will also want to clean your washing machine regularly so you avoid oil buildups and clogging. You can do that by adding baking soda in the drum and run a hot cycle, then adding about 200 ml vinegar and running another hot cycle and you’re done!
- Polishing metal surfaces, mixing warm water + baking soda + white vinegar works perfectly if you want to polish cutlery, anything metal around your house and even candleholders.
- Fat and burns on top of your stove, mix 200 ml white vinegar + 300 dl warm water + 5 drops of Castile Soap. You can use sugar cubes to get rid of the burns and work your way to a clean stove with the mix and a cotton rag that you clean off with water in between cleaning.