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Babies Exposed to Cleaning Products at Increased Risk for Asthma

Air fresheners, deodorizers, dusting sprays, hand sanitizers, oven cleaners singled out by study's lead author

Cleaning: Are we overdoing it?

Alex Scranton
Director of Science and Research

A new study on the effects of cleaning products on children’s health was just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study found that in homes where there was more frequent use of cleaning products, children were at greater risk of developing asthma and having other breathing problems known to be precursors of asthma. Specifically they looked at use of cleaning products in the home when children were three to four months old, which is a vulnerable window of time when both respiratory systems and immune systems are still developing in children, and chemical exposures can have a significant impact. The study found that use of cleaning sprays, air fresheners of all kinds, hand sanitizers and oven cleaners were particularly associated with the increased risks. The researchers believe when cleaning products that are sprayed or emitted into the air, increases the potential exposure to the cleaning chemicals because they are breathed in – this exposure is greater than if cleaning products are applied to a cloth and rubbed on a surface.

There is no question that keeping a clean home is generally good for health – but this study begs the question of whether we might be overdoing it. Marketing rhetoric certainly tells us that we need an arsenal of cleaning products; one product to clean our counters, another one for tile, another for floors, another for stove tops, for glass, toilets, showers, walls, windows – others to spray on our curtains, couches, hampers, garbage cans, etc… You know the picture. But no matter how we choose to take care of our homes, the products we use should never put our health at risk. This study further raises questions about the safety of the chemicals currently used in store-bought cleaning products. We hope that cleaning product manufacturers take these findings seriously, and choose to investigate further to ensure that the products they manufacture can be used safely by anyone at any age. In the meantime, some recommendations for safely cleaning your home include:

  • Avoid cleaning products in spray form.
  • Avoid using cleaning products containing fragrances.
  • Reduce the overall use of cleaning products by cleaning more frequently simply with water and a cloth.
  • Rethink any assumptions about what a clean house smells like. A clean house should smell like nothing!

Hear from the Authors

Take a listen to this great podcast, interviewing the authors of the study!

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