According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide. WHO further goes on to state that asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. Home cleaning products seem to be one of the main culprits in upping the risk of childhood asthma. A recent article on National Post that published study results by Simon Fraser University on this subject confirms this often underplayed grim reality.
Researchers surveyed parents who were non-smokers without any history of asthma. The aim was to find out how often they used common household cleaners and their effect on babies. Results show that by the time the kids were 3 years old, children with the highest exposure to cleaning products were 37% more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma. Compounding it further, the greater the exposure to cleaning products, the kids seem more likely to have chronic allergies and wheezing.
A cautionary note to parents
“Parents are striving to maintain a healthy home for their children. We want parents to question the socially accepted norm that a home needs to smell like chemical-based cleaning products in order to be clean” said study co-author Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.
The first months of babies’ life are critical for the development of immune and respiratory systems. Exposure to chemicals inside the home is particularly problematic as infants mostly spend their time indoors.
Air pollution: it’s present indoors, too
Indoor pollution is currently a growing issue that seems to aggravate the state of asthma and allergy sufferers. A recent analysis of air quality in Los Angeles threw up a startling and unforeseen result. It showed that there was as much petroleum pollution indoors as the amount expelled from vehicles outside. And this came from refined cleaning products. In fact, the list of polluting irritants goes beyond petroleum and many of these pollutants are all too common inside the house.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that the air inside our homes can be two to five times more polluted as outdoor air, and one of the sources is conventional cleaning products that contain known respiratory irritants and allergens. Use of natural, non-toxic and environment-friendly products could help in tiding the situation. Unfortunately, unsuspecting households seem to presume anything marketed as green is safe, a far cry from reality.
Common chemical asthmagens and allergens
- Formaldehyde: A known skin irritant, allergy trigger and a carcinogen. It is found in laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent and bleach cleaner as a synthetic preservative or anti-bacteria.
Fragrances: Synthetic fragrances found in cleaning products and air fresheners commonly contain a group of chemicals called, Phthalates. They can trigger asthma. Also, it can be absorbed across the skin.
The second issue with fragrance is lack of transparency. Even though it can be made up of several constituents, fragrances can be listed on a product as a single ingredient. This is a legal loophole that protects product formulations as a ‘trade secret’. However, protecting trade secrets shouldn’t take priority over consumer health, especially when they can contain chemicals as harmful as phthalates.
- Quaternary ammonia compounds (QUATS): They are a class of chemicals used as disinfectants, anti-bacterial and fabric softeners. QUATS are classified by EWG as an asthmagen and studies have shown that QUATS can cause asthma in previously healthy people. EWG’s ‘Guide to healthy cleaning’ found QUATS in 40% of antibacterial products.
- Methylisothiazolinone: A synthetic chemical used in consumer products for its antimicrobial properties. It is most often applied to cleaning products as a synthetic preservative. Also found in ‘healthier’ alternatives despite numerous studies showing that exposure may cause respiratory irritation, skin sensitivities (including dermatitis), skin burns and eye damage.
- Ammonium hydroxide: Thanks to its powerful cleaning properties at a very low-cost, ammonium hydroxide is widely used in cleaning products. Of course, companies’ profits come at the cost of our health! It is a poison that can irritate skin, eyes, respiratory system and frequent exposure can result in asthma. So when you grab your trusted blue ammonia-based window cleaner laced with chlorine, guess what? It instantly creates a toxic, lung-damaging gas cloud. Turn the hot shower on to rinse the cleaners away and it actually gets worse. The shower stall gets clean, but you’ve just inhaled some really dangerous stuff.
Asthma and allergy-safe cleaning“I have worked at a few different cleaning businesses and was working with chemicals and acidic solutions. Within the first few weeks, I started to notice symptoms of allergies: running nose, choking cough, itchy eyes and a lack of energy”, states Victoriya, a veteran in the cleaning industry. She noticed a huge difference in her health condition after transitioning to AspenClean products, “when I started with AspenClean, I noticed a difference in my health within the first month. My symptom severity lessened and I stopped having intense coughing fits. I do not rely on my inhaler as much now”.
Usage of chemicals at home is unavoidable. Making the right choices will help cut unnecessary toxins. You are now aware of few asthmagens and allergens found in common cleaning products. As an informed person you can check your cleaning product labels and make sure they aren’t included.
If your products don’t have all their ingredients listed (which isn’t a legal obligation for cleaning products in North America), you can use resources like the EWG’s ‘Guide to Healthy Cleaning’ to help you make informed choices. Their database consists of over 2000 cleaning products which are rated from A to F based on available research on ingredients used and product transparency. A guide like this is particularly useful for substantiating green claims made by brands to help you avoid greenwashing.
AspenClean: making a natural and healthy choice
All AspenClean natural cleaning products have received an ‘A’ rating from EWG. They contain no synthetic chemicals known to aggravate asthma and allergies. Also, the products are free of all tree nuts and only contain pure organic essential oils. Our glass cleaners are ammonia free and are made of 100% natural, vegan ingredients & organic essential oils. There are also several unscented AspenClean products, including unscented laundry detergent, dish soap, dishwasher pods, and floor cleaner - great for people with sensitivities. Our products have a complete list of ingredients prominently listed as per INCI format system to help consumers with asthma and allergies identify potential triggers.