We are all sensitive these days to staying germ free and keeping our home and business clear from potential health hazards. Buying quality cleaning supplies can be daunting. Though there’s many products to choose from, you should avoid products that cause allergic reactions including those products that cause coughing and shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness, as well as products that cause skin and eye rashes and burns.
You might recall recently the national story of the tragic death of a restaurant worker who was overcome by the toxic fumes when two cleaning agents were accidentally mixed together. This does not happen using only commercial grade cleaners. Unfortunately, this can happen at home as it did this past August, as reported by England’s The Sun, when a young girl mixed two bathroom cleaning products that caused her to have a fatal asthma attack.
Mixing cleaning products can be deadly.
Anyone who is using products to clean and disinfect needs to know about ventilation, protective clothing, how to read labels on products, and how to correctly store products. All consumers should be familiar with warning labels and the list of ingredients in cleaning products.
According to Scientific America, because cleaning products are not classified (as food, beverages or drugs meant to be ingested) cleaning products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, makers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful. Some manufacturers are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. The Clorox Company, for example, one of the largest manufacturers of cleaning products, now publishes full lists of the ingredients for all of its brands on its corporate website.
Read Product Labels
Cleaning products can include ingredients for which you should be aware including solvents like ethanol preservatives or chlorine bleach. It is crucial that you know the ingredients in your cleaning products. Not only will the product label list the ingredients, the label will note how to use the product, how to dispose of the product, a Caution section if there are potential harmful things to avoid, and First Aid section if the product is used incorrectly.
OSHA has produced an InfoSheet, Protecting Workers Who Use Cleaning Chemicals, which contains resource links regarding the potential health risks about cleaning products. OSHA has a regulation site specific to the Cleaning Industry for standards, hazards and solutions, and additional resources. OSHA pictograms and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are used when labeling products with harmful chemicals.
Certified Safer Choice Labels
A product with a Safer Choice label indicates that the product has been through a rigorous Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review by EPA scientists who have evaluated every ingredient in the product to ensure it meets Safer Choice's stringent criteria. When people use Safer Choice-certified products, they are protecting their families and the environment by making safer chemical choices. The Environmental Protection Agency also provides information on using greener products to help improving the environment as well as human health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has also published information about Decoding Product Labels.
For employees using cleaning products at work, employers are required to review the cleaning products and train employees on how to safely use them, especially the products that can cause harm if inhaled, absorbed in the skin, or ingested. Employers should inform employees where to find the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for chemicals, first aid kids and eye wash stations, how to store the products, and what personal protective equipment is available to them during use and if products are spilled. Employees need to be warned to make sure they do not mix specific products that produce toxins when combined.
Beacon Safety Resources
- Hazardous Liquids Safety
- Hazardous Communication
- Globally Harmonized System
- Emergency Eye Wash Safety
- Eye Protection
- First Aid and CPR
- Flammable Storage
- Respirator Protection
- OSHA: Protect Yourself - Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health
- OSHA: Hazard Communication Standard Pictogram
- OSHA: Hazard Communication Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
- OSHA: Training on Cleaning Chemicals
- EPA: Safer Choice
- Chemical Safety Facts
- Guidance on Using Disinfectants Safely