Exposure to toxic chemicals during cleaning increases the risk of workplace asthma

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, October 2019, Volume 2, #82

Cleaning products and air-fresheners are primary sources of chemical-based air pollutants in the toilets. Most of the cleaning products available in the market, albeit useful for cleaning purposes, release toxic chemicals such as quaternary ammonium compounds, 2-butoxyethanol, ethanolamines, and many VOCs into the air. Air fresheners are used to mask the odour in the toilet. Air-fresheners also generate VOCs that participate in indoor chemistry to generate more toxic chemicals into the air. Cleaning products and air-fresheners are primary sources of chemical-based aerosols that can penetrate deep into the human body to cause harm. The lack of or insufficient ventilation in most toilets increases the concentration of the toxic chemicals in the toilets. The concentration of air pollutants is usually very high during the active presence of the sources. Indoor occupants’ exposure to generated toxic chemicals during this period will increase the risk of health problems occurrence. Toilet cleaners using the cleaning products are thus highly vulnerable. The lack of or insufficient ventilation in the toilet, especially during cleaning activities, will further increase the vulnerability.

The use of human-friendly cleaning products that emit little or no toxic chemicals, use of masks during cleaning activities will help reduce reliance on ventilation. This strategy is energy efficient. However, the nature of toilets in generating foul smells means the design for adequate ventilation is essential. The provision of adequate ventilation will also reduce reliance on the use of toxic chemicals to mask odour in toilets. These measures are necessary to reduce the risk of adverse health effects occurrence. Sensory – nose, eye, throat, skin – irritations, asthma symptoms, and exacerbation of asthma are some of the adverse health implications. Most of the cleaners are older people with relatively low immunity systems to fight the danger posed by toxic chemicals. Adopting healthy solutions to reduce exposure the toxic chemicals have social and economic benefits.

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Do you want to read more about this topic? Read Arif and Delclous (2012), Bello et al. (2009), and Nazaroff and Weschler (2004) papers.

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