We all spend a significant proportion of our day either at home or at work, where we take it for granted that these are safe places to be. But with chemical-based cleaning products that are used, they can contaminate our surroundings with toxic chemicals. After all, no-one wants to be a clean island in a sea of hazardous dirt, dust and grime. Switching to Eco-Responsible cleaning products is a great way to keep your home and workplace spotless and healthy. This article looks at the hidden hazards of chemical cleaners and shows you how to make the change to a safer cleaning routine.
The Hidden Risks to our Health at Home and Work
Anyone who uses cleaning products at work must undertake a Chemicals or Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) training course, whereas, at home, we spread these products around without a second thought.
From chlorine and ammonia to perfumes and phthalates, our indoor spaces are invisible toxic wastelands that are hazardous to our health. For those with asthma, the impact of harsh cleaning chemicals is all too evident. Several studies have shown that frequent exposure to chemicals in products like window cleaning and air deodorizers, indicates unborn children are at greater risk of birth defects or immune system problems later in life.
How Chemicals Impact Home and Professional Cleaners Alike
A long-term study of 5,000 people found that those who cleaned for a living had a 17% greater decline in lung function in comparison to the average person. The study concluded this was because the group was more exposed to cleaning agents, such as ammonia, that impact the airways.
It’s not surprising that those who work as professional cleaners are more exposed to the hazards of chemicals. But even if you make your money another way, you’re still working in those spaces and are exposed to chemical residues and vapours even after the fluids have dried. A more startling research finding is that people who scrub surfaces at home have a greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than those who don’t. Often starting with a cough, this illness can severely reduce the quality of life and life expectancy.
And the scientific evidence keeps piling up. Another European study found that using spray cleaners as infrequently as once a week increases the chance of developing asthma by 50%. The worst offenders were found to be air fresheners and glass and furniture cleaners. Given that you use a spray cleaner more often than once a week, these findings are pretty shocking.
The Not So Hidden Risks to our Environment
It’s not just our bodies that are suffering. We’re increasingly aware of the toll our lifestyles take on the planet around us. Research shows a chemical used in carpet cleaning products has been ingested by wildlife and found in the blood of fish, birds and dolphins.
And plastic pollution is another serious issue. Did you know that less than half the plastic bottles in the UK are not recycled? And that many household cleaning products contain tiny plastic microbeads that enter the waterways when you rinse your cleaning fluids away? Nobody intends to harm the environment but it’s easy to do so without realising.
Ready for a safer home cleaning option? Jump to the solution section here
Business Owners’ Dual Safety Responsibility
If you’re a business owner, you have a dual responsibility to protect your employees and customers from chemicals that may be harmful to their health. Any business that asks its employees to use cleaning fluids should provide them with suitable training. The COSHH guidelines have some sensible suggestions that could help home and business owners alike reduce exposure to chemicals.
In some industries, such as hairdressing, employees are regularly exposed to chemicals. While this can’t be helped, you can take steps to reduce your employees’ chemical exposure by replacing toxic cleaning products with non-toxic versions.
And it’s not just your employees who may be affected by the chemicals in your cleaning products. Research shows that allergy rates are increasing across the world and that 5.4 million people in the UK suffer from asthma. And 31% of those with allergies found cleaning products triggered their symptoms resulting in runny noses, sneezing and itchy eyes.
That means there’s a good chance some of your customers find harsh cleaning chemicals difficult to deal with. Changing to Eco-Responsible cleaning products could make your customers more comfortable, your employees healthier and will be a point of difference for your business.
Switching to Eco-Responsible Products for a Brighter Future
Swapping to Eco-Responsible cleaning products is a simple solution and it doesn’t need to be expensive. But before you rush off to buy some eco-friendly cleaners, you need to know what you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, some products labelled non-toxic or natural are wolves in woolly jumpers, and can actually contain harmful chemicals that don’t biodegrade despite their claims. That’s because product labelling for household cleaners is fairly unregulated. Manufacturers can use words like ‘green’, ‘non-toxic’ and ‘natural’ even if their products contain harmful ingredients. It is good practice to ignore these often misleading terms and look at the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) wherever possible. The SDS must be supplied by the manufacturer upon request and must contain the ingredients in the products and their impact on you, your family and the environment.
But there are brands available that make safe products with ingredients you don’t need to question. Look for those with certification from an independent body like Eco.3’s Eco-Responsible Certified range of people and planet-safe cleaning sprays. By using modern technology to negatively charge the cleaning fluid and lift dirt up to be safely washed away, there’s no need for old-fashioned chemical formulas.
Look for Labels Which Clearly State Benefits
Products which have something to shout about will display it clearly on the label with these keywords:
- Non-carcinogenic – these cleaners don’t contain chemicals that cause cancer.
- Pet and child safe – free from chemicals so pets and children don’t run the risk of breathing in fumes or ingesting surface residue.
- Skin and food safe – you can bring this cleaner into contact with the skin and use on food preparation surfaces without safety fears.
- Non-toxic – safe for you, your home and the environment; biodegradable, water soluble and safe for animals.
Truly Eco-Responsible products also consider how they are packaged. Look for products that come in reusable bottles that you can top up with sachets and water. This reduces the number of bottles in your cupboard, the number of lorries on our roads and the amount of CO2 pumped into our environment caused by transportation from manufacturer to distribution centre to supermarket to home.
Either use all your old products up before making the change or dispose of your old products at your local council hazardous waste disposal unit and not down the drain.
How to Get the Green Cleaning Light at Work if You’re Not the Boss
If introducing an Eco-Responsible Cleaning Regime at work sounds like something you’d like to do, be prepared to influence your employers. Health and safety are legally everyone’s responsibility. If you know that traditional toxic cleaning products cause problems for yourself or others at work, you have a duty to raise the issue with your employer. And they have a duty of care to look at alternative solutions.
Even if no-one is suffering from symptoms obviously caused by cleaning products, many organisations want to be seen to have a positive impact on the environment. And many larger employers will measure their eco-footprint as part of their company reporting.
Here are a few arguments you can use to persuade your employer to adopt green cleaning technology:
- If your employer has a Cycle to Work scheme or carbon reduction plan, explain that using environmentally friendly cleaning products is a great way to extend the company’s existing green initiatives.
- Highlight common issues that chemicals cause and link these to sickness absence and the cost of this to your employer.
- Putting employee’s health first can make employees feel cared for and more engaged, and a happier workplace is a more productive and creative place.
- Switching to products like Eco.3’s bathroom and kitchen cleaners repel dirt keeping surfaces safer for longer potentially reducing the need for such frequent cleaning.
- Demonstrate how readily-available these alternatives are for businesses.
The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Green
You can switch to Eco-Responsible cleaning products that do the job as well, if not better than, traditional chemical solutions. Whether you’re cleaning at home or work, your space will be left clean and safe and your customers, employees and colleagues more comfortable. Visit our website to find out more about Eco.3’s cost effective product range.