Unexpected Health Threats to House Wives! Attack of the Cleaning Products! By Mrs Vera West
If, like me, while cleaning your humble home you have worried about the dangers of cleaners, then read this, nicely cut ‘n’ pasted for your reading convenience:
“The chemicals can be as bad as smoking cigarettes. Cleaning your house isn't exactly the same as smoking cigarettes. For example, you shouldn't be using your mouth to clean your house. However, a study recently published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine claims that regularly using house cleaning products could be as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Basically, this study suggests that cleaning could take your breath away. But not in a Berlin and Top Gun type of way. Researchers at the University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital in Norway followed what happened to two common measures of lung function over time among 6,235 people who were part of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. The first measure is the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). Imagine your self trying to blow out a birthday cake with a thousand candles and then measuring the amount of air you can blow out of lungs in one second. The second measure is the forced vital capacity (FVC), which is the total amount of air you can blow out of your lungs after you've taken the deepest breath possible.
While both of these measure tend to peak between 20 to 25 years of age and then afterwards decrease gradually with age, the study found that the FEV1 and the FVC decreased faster (3.6 and 4.3 ml per year faster) for women who regularly cleaned their own homes than those who did not. The declines were even faster (3.9 and 7.1 ml/year faster) among women who worked as cleaners compared to those who did not work as cleaners and did not regularly clean their own homes. Also, asthma was more common (12.3%) among women who cleaned their homes (12.3 percent) or worked as cleaners (13.7%) than those who did neither (9.6%). These declines in lung function were comparable to those seen in people with a pack-a-day cigarette smoking habit. Before you use this study as justification for not cleaning your house, keep in mind that this was not the "cleanest" study. Such a cohort study can only show associations and cannot actually prove that cleaning caused faster decreases in lung function. There may be other things about those who happen to regularly clean that lead to decreases in lung function. Moreover, the study did not find the same associations among men, maybe because too few men indicated that they regularly clean houses. More studies are needed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship and which chemicals in cleaners may be affecting your lungs.
Nonetheless, this recent study is not first to raise concerns about cleaning product chemicals. The American Lung Association warns about how ammonia, bleach, and a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in cleaning products can irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs and may lead to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reaction, headaches, and even cancer. Unfortunately, you can't always find a full list of chemicals on a cleaning product because manufacturers are not required by U.S. law to provide such a list. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does provide a list of products that meets its Safer Choice requirements (assuming that such consumer protection services are not eventually de-funded and eliminated). There are products out there that use more natural and safer ingredients, such as baking soda and vinegar. (If you can eat it, you probably can clean with it.) Additionally, you can potentially create your own cleaning products. YouTuber Melissa Maker offers some recipes here: Rubbing alcohol can be an effective disinfectant. Of course, make sure that any homemade concoctions are tested and proven to be safe and effective cleaners and disinfectants. You don't want to be just spreading dirt and bacteria all over your house and yourself. In meantime, if you are using cleaners with potentially harmful chemicals, take precautions while cleaning, such as keeping the room well ventilated, fans and other air circulators on, and doors and windows open. You can also try holding your breath, but that only lasts for a few minutes before you pass out.”
Obviously, the alternative of living in a junk heap is equally as bad as the rubbish that accumulates is going to be toxic too. It is best then to try and minimise the waste produced; use natural cleaning products, or just our toxic swimming pool-like mains water, and hope for the best, that we are not killed too quickly by the chemicals of modern life that we are pickled in.