International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association

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Harmful effects of using everyday cleaning chemicals

16 Jul 2018 6:35 AM | Lee Manseau

There are vast differences between using everyday common cleaners versus using natural green cleaning products, I will begin my discussion on very effective but harmful solvents that are used in many cleaners called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's). According to (Tox Town n.d.), “Many volatile organic compounds are commonly used in paint thinners, lacquer thinners, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, degreasers, automotive products, and dry cleaning fluids”. These VOC's can virtually change from a liquid state into a harmful vapor, along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen, and can react with nitrogen-oxides to form ground level smog.

Short-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, nausea, and memory impairment. Long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.

According to (How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies? n.d.) The most acutely dangerous cleaning products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. Corrosive chemicals can cause severe burns on eyes, skin and, if ingested, on the throat and esophagus. Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia, which produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and should not be used by people with asthma or lung or heart problems. These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other or other chemicals to form lung-damaging gases.

According to (EPA, 2018, February 13) choosing less hazardous products that have positive environmental attributes (e.g., biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, low life cycle energy use) and taking steps to reduce exposure can minimize harmful impacts to custodial workers and building occupants, improve indoor air quality, and reduce water and ambient air pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the building's interior.

By comparing and contrasting everyday common cleaners and natural green cleaning products, one can easily see that the risk versus the rewards of using cleaning agents containing VOC's and other dangerous compounds are quite obvious. Custodial workers and building occupants, should never be exposed to bad indoor air or risk a severe skin irritation. There are many positive environmental, safety, and health benefits associated with using natural green products, they should always be used for these reasons, especially when these green products are as effective as their harmful counterparts.

Locate us and order your Certified Green Cleaning Service today through the IJCSA Green Cleaning Directory located at:

Tox Town - Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - Toxic chemicals and environmental health risks where you live and work - Text Version. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies? (n.d.). Retrieved from

Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide For Federal Purchasers. (2018, February 13). Retrieved from:


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