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The Tranquil Way: The hazards of cleaning chemicals

Published:Tuesday | May 3, 2016 | 5:00 AM

Most of us don't have positive perceptions about germs. They are usually associated with disease and death so we often try to kill them before they kill us. Therefore, cleaning chemicals are often used in cleaning the objects we come in contact with both at home and work that can withstand their use. But could this be harmful to us?

Bleach, disinfectants, antibacterial soaps, detergents and hand sanitisers are frequently used to ensure that surfaces are kept clean. This is especially so when children are involved as they are more vulnerable and it is our responsibility to protect them. However, we often don't consider the harm that these cleaning chemicals themselves can cause.

Cleaning chemicals can produce fumes especially when concentrated or combined with other chemicals. These fumes can irritate our air passages producing damage and triggering allergic reactions, including asthma or asthmatic symptoms. And it would appear that the inflammation so produced may affect other areas of the body such as joints and the stomach. The fragrances used in them can cause similar problems. Even air fresheners have been found to produce these symptoms.

Cleaning chemicals can also cause irritation and damage to the skin, including burns. Some persons are more vulnerable to this than others. It is usually best to use gloves when using them. When used in the cleaning of clothes it best that they are rinsed properly. The enzymes found in certain detergents have been found to contribute to allergies. The risk of poisoning of these chemicals is also well-known.

These substances have also been implicated in birth defects and developmental problems as well. Therefore, pregnant women should exercise special caution when using these chemicals or otherwise being exposed to them. They have also been found to reduce fertility as well.

Another health hazard that they seem to pose is cancer. A higher risk of breast cancer has been found in those who use cleaning chemicals. Solid air fresheners have also been found to contribute to cancer.

Another less well-known risk these chemical pose is that because they are so effective in killing bacteria that it reduces the exposure we get to bacteria and this, interestingly, increases the risk of over-response of our immune system leading to many chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, arthritis, hormonal problems, hypertension and anxiety among others.

Cleaning chemicals must, therefore, be used with caution (and proper training) or avoided when possible.