International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association

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What Do Cleaning Chemicals Do To Our Bodies & The Planet

03 Dec 2019 5:11 PM | Katie Vogel Lossner

Cleaning products are everywhere, marketed to consumers as a way to improve quality of life and provide them with a home which will better their health and the health of their families. Unfortunately, with most products commercially available today, there are multitudes of health problems that these products can cause or exacerbate, which are hidden from the public.

According to Cleveland Clinic, depending on the ingredients used, all-purpose cleaners can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. They can be highly poisonous to both humans and animals if swallowed. Chlorine bleach liquid and vapors can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Dermatitis may result from direct skin contact. Ingestion can cause esophageal injury, stomach irritation and prolonged nausea and vomiting. Antibacterial cleaners usually contain water, a fragrance, a surfactant (to break up dirt), and a pesticide. The pesticides commonly used in antibacterial cleaners are quaternary ammonium or phenolic chemicals. Antibacterial cleaners can irritate your eyes and burn your skin and throat. The basic ingredients of window/glass cleaners are ammonia and isopropanol. These products may be irritating to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat. If swallowed, they may cause drowsiness, unconsciousness or death. Chlorine and alkyl ammonium chlorides are the common fungicide chemicals found in mold and mildew removers. Cleaners with mold and mildew removers may cause breathing problems and if swallowed, can burn your throat. Furniture cleaners for wood may contain petroleum distillates and oil of cedar. Furniture polish typically contains one or more of the following substances: ammonia, naphtha, nitrobenzene, petroleum distillates and phenol. These chemicals may irritate your skin, eyes, throat, lungs, and windpipe. If swallowed, furniture polish can cause nausea and vomiting; medical help should be sought.

Furthermore, these same products that harm our own health also negatively impact the health of our planet. As the EPA points out on its website, certain ingredients in cleaning products can present hazard concerns to exposed populations or toxicity to aquatic species in waters receiving inadequately treated wastes. For example, alkylphenol ethoxylates, a common surfactant ingredient in cleaners, have been shown in laboratory studies to function as an "endocrine disrupter," causing adverse reproductive effects of the types seen in wildlife exposed to polluted waters. Ingredients containing phosphorus or nitrogen can contribute to nutrient-loading in water bodies, leading to adverse effects on water quality. Additionally, volatile organic compounds (VOC) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and also contribute to smog formation in outdoor air.

Regrettably for consumers, avoiding these products can be exceedingly difficult, and cleaning product manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the labels of their chemicals. However, by selecting a certified green cleaner from IJCSAs directory, consumers may eliminate these concerns and focus more on their day-to-day living.


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