According to researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway, the damage being done to your lungs with cleaning sprays is equivalent to decades of puffing away.
The harm these chemicals can do to your lung function can result in all kinds of damaging respiratory symptoms — including triggering and worsening asthma.
The good news is that it’s easy to get a sparkling clean house without putting your lungs on the line!
Every breath you take
The immediate danger of a wide variety of toxic chemicals used in cleaning products has been the subject of plenty of research.
But this new study, which spanned over two decades, appears to be one of the lengthiest and most robust ones to look at the long-term effects that many of these popular cleaning agents can have on your lungs.
The Norwegian research team specifically called out certain cleaning products as being especially dangerous. They’re easy-to-find ones that are sold practically everywhere and contain ingredients known as “quaternary ammonium” compounds, or “quats.”
Researchers found that these common chemicals cause steady damage to airways “day after day, year after year.” And that’s in addition to the immediate effects they can have on those with asthma or other lung conditions, such as COPD.
The harm this does to the lungs was compared to smoking a pack-a-day for 20 years. Yikes! And imagine the double jeopardy for anyone who is also a smoker.
And it’s not like the scientists were just guessing, either. They had concrete evidence from over 6,000 volunteers about the harm these products can do to your lungs, having included tests for respiratory function over the course of several years.
As I said, they specifically mentioned an especially dangerous variety of chemicals called “quats.” But it’s not likely that you’ll find that term listed on products, since these substances go by a wide variety of chemical names. But if you want to check out what’s under your kitchen sink right now, look for anything that contains “benzalkonium chloride” or anything that ends in “ammonium chloride.”
Any cleaner that says it’s “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” is also suspect.
And the fact that spray versions of cleaning products are now so popular only adds to the problem. Researchers recommended that we use liquid cleaners instead, which makes a lot of sense.
After all, when you start pumping that bottle, what comes out goes right into your breathing space just as easily as it lands on the stove top or kitchen counter you’re cleaning!
Seriously, you shouldn’t have to trade your ability to breathe for a clean house!
Unfortunately, that’s happening more often than you might think — a neighbor I know claims that she can only get her kitchen clean with Formula 409 (which contains a quat under the name of “Alkyl C12-16 dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride”).
But for years now, safer products have been appearing on retail shelves, ones that won’t take your breath away along with the grime on your tub. So, instead of just buying your “brand” cleaner that you’ve been using forever, try the following:
- Look for “natural” or organic cleaners (two effective cleaning tools you probably have at the ready include vinegar and baking soda).
- Beware highly fragranced ones with fancy names like “clean laundry.”
- Opt for liquids whenever possible.
- Make sure that the bathroom, kitchen, or whatever area you’re cleaning is well-ventilated by opening all the windows and doors.
And don’t forget about the nontoxic cleaning power of some good old-fashioned elbow grease!
“Caution: Cleaning this way is like smoking a pack a day, study says” Robert Rodriguez, February 20, 2018, The Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com