Is complacency killing us?

Over recent decades there has been a continual move to eradicate smoking from confined areas; and yet tens of thousands of Australians are exposed to the equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes per day, by using harmful cleaning chemicals in their homes and workplace. Alarmist – no. These are the results that we are seeing across the world from studies carried out by universities and research institutes focusing on health issues.

In an article written by Ann Laffeaty for the European Cleaning Journal (ECJ) April/May 2018 titled ‘A cleaning chemical reaction’, she states that “we are constantly being told about damage that chemical products can cause to our health, safety and the environment. But what are customers’ reactions to such reports? Are they turning away from chemical cleaning products, or are they continuing to use the same formulations they have always done?”

We often hear concerns about the impact of such chemicals on the environment, but what about the impact on humans and animals?

The article in ECJ also sites a study published in September 2017, carried out over an 8 year period on 55,000 participants, by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research that revealed exposure to bleach, disinfectant and chemical sprays appeared to increase the chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by 32%.

Equally telling was a second study carried out at the University of Bergen (UiB – Norway), revealing that lung function tended to decline significantly among cleaning works and anyone else who regularly cleaned their homes using chemical products. The study also found asthma to be 4% more prevalent in cleaning staff than the general population.

“People who have worked as cleaners or done household cleaning for 20 years have reduced lung function equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day, for the same period of time,” says PHD-candidate Øistein Svanes, at the Department of Clinical Science, at the University of Bergen. Mr Svanes is the main author of the study. The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in February 2018.

Is there a solution?

There is a definite need to minimise the volume of airborne chemical sprays. Biological cleaning products, and water combined with microfibre clothes, can make an immediate positive impact. There is no time for complacency. More and more consumers will be demanding safer alternatives in their workplaces. The solutions are already available and ready for take-up.

Growing concern about the long-term health effects of chemicals being used in both public and private settings can no longer be ignored. There are serious Health and Safety concerns to be considered in all workplaces around cleaning staff, as well as occupants of the buildings who are inadvertently exposed simply by using a washroom.

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