Chemical cleaning solutions trigger asthma symptoms

Companies should consider chemical-free products to protect staff health, states Green World Innovations

The use of chemical cleaning products in the workplace has increased dramatically during the past 20 years. Research, such as the recently released study by David Vizcaya at the University of Montreal, is now starting to highlight the impact that the use of chemical cleaners is having on professional cleaning service employees.

The study shows that fumes from cleaning products used at work can trigger asthma symptoms. Vizcaya and his team evaluated the health of 21 Spanish cleaners who had experienced asthma symptoms, during the past year, for a period of two weeks.

The study participants recorded the different types of chemicals used during the period and any symptoms they suffered. On average, they used slightly more than two different types of cleaning products each day, and on three out of every four working days were exposed to at least one strong irritant, such as ammonia, bleach or hydrochloric acid.

During this period, the researchers found that 17 out of the 21 cleaners reported at least one upper respiratory tract symptom, such as sneezing, scratchy throat and runny nose; 18 out of 21 participants also reported other symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or chest pain, with a strong association between exposure to cleaning products and these symptoms among individuals with a history of asthma.

Martin Booth, MD at Green World Innovations, commented: ‘The use of harsh chemicals such as bleach, hydrochloric acid and ammonia is higher than ever before, and yet we still have relatively little idea what long-term impact exposure to them is having on the health of professional cleaning staff.

‘However, we would expect that the more studies that are undertaken on chemical cleaning products, the more we will see the implicit connection between them and the impact on employee health. With this already increasing volume of evidence companies are now having to weigh up the effectiveness of the cleaning chemicals against the health of their staff.

‘Viable, chemical-free alternatives are available, such as aqueous ozone, and organisations now need to look for solutions that can clean as effectively as chemicals without having a negative impact on employee health and the environment. The health issues associated with chemical cleaning products are not going to go away,' he concluded.

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