While your house becomes cleaner with each rub, your body suffers — household cleaning liquids or agents are linked to respiratory problems such as bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis (which includes running nose and nasal block) due to the acidic fumes they release upon evaporation. No wonder then that the increased use of these liquids for cleaning bathrooms, floors as well as the kitchen area has increased the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among other health problems, largely. The acidic fumes released from these liquids irritate the respiratory system, causing many different breathing problems, explains Dr S. Mallikarjun Rao, consultant pulmonologist and chest specialist, Apollo Hospitals.
Dr S. Mallikarjun Rao, consultant pulmonologist and chest specialist
Q. It has been found in various studies that common cleaning products significantly increase the risk of COPD. Why?
Cleaning products contain lots of acids like hydrochloride acid, sulphuric acid, acetic acid and phenol and glycol which irritate the respiratory system leading to problems like bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, nasal blockage and other lung problems.
Q. What are the negative effects of these disinfectants and cleaning liquids on the respiratory system?
It usually starts with an allergic disease and later develops into a worse form of COPD, endocrine disorders, fertility problems and also nervous system disorders.
Q. How must women or household workers protect themselves?
Avoid strong scented, cleaning products especially triclosan-containing products. Use detergent powder with water for cleaning purposes as they are safe. Cover the mouth and nose when these liquids are being used. If one is allergic, it is best is to avoid using them and opt for safer alternatives.
Q. There is often a lot of smell of ammonia in and around areas close to clogged drains. People living in these areas often complain of constant headaches and dizziness. Does this happen because of the gas in the drains? What is the solution?
Yes, the release of ammonia and other poisonous gases, which have detrimental effects on the nervous system, cause headaches, mood swings and also anger in a lot of people. Many times, it is seen that people living in such areas get very irritated due to the constant foul smell. The best options are to use masks or move out to other areas.
Q. What are the complications if the problem is identified late? Can it cause damage to other organs too?
A chronic, low-dose exposure is the culprit of many of these diseases and most people come late for check-ups to hospitals and clinics. The exposure to these gases can affect and damage the endocrine system and cause hormonal disturbances and reproductive problems.
Q. Which chemicals are safe to use for cleaning purposes?
Detergent liquids and powder with water are safe. All scented liquid soaps, dishwashing soaps and sanitisers are unsafe. They give rise to multi-drug resistant infections.