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March 2018

The dangers of harsh chemicals, and why we clean with bacteria

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Environment and Green Hygiene Leave a Comment

Long gone are the days when the smell and burn of bleach meant you were doing a spring clean! People are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that harsh chemicals - such as bleach - can have on both the environment and on one’s health.A recent article on webwire entitled “ Work-Related Asthma and Mitigating Employee Exposures to Cleaning Chemicals and Disinfectants”  tackled exactly this issue, highlighting the fact that for millions of asthma sufferers, exposure at work to allergens and irritants is either causing - or exacerbating - their asthma. According to the National Institute of Health there are more than 250 substances which are known or believed to cause or exacerbate work-related asthma, and these substances are found in many chemicals, including cleaning solutions and disinfectants.

The Californian Department of Public Health (CDPH) published a report in which it found that  nearly 10% of all work-related asthma cases were caused by exposure to cleaning products. Almost 20% of those affected - such as cleaners - used cleaning products directly, and the other 80% of affected workers attributed their asthma symptoms to cleaning products having been used nearby.

And it’s not only asthma. For cleaners, housekeepers and maintenance staff itchy skin, rashes, sore eyes and burns can all be traced back to one common denominator; cleaning products.

According to research carried out by The Environment Group - a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting human health and the environment - 53% of cleaning products under review contained lung-harming ingredients. In addition, well-known carcinogens like formaldehyde and chloroform were found in several cleaners.  Some products are potentially fatal if inhaled or swallowed, some can cause irreparable damage to skin and eyes and others have the potential to cause foetal and reproductive damage following prolonged exposure.

And what about the environment? APEs - a type of cleaning compound with bioactive consequences - have been banned in the UK for their effect on an organism’s endocrine system. And to go back to bleach, advocates of this ubiquitous cleaner will claim that water processing and treatment rapidly reduce bleach to chloride ions, and that there is no real possibility of the formation of trace toxic by-products, however bleach is formed from the organochlorine family of chemicals which are rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose. Greenpeace has called for a complete end to organochlorine production.

Here at Initial we’ve wised up to the harm that prolonged exposure to certain chemicals can cause to both our colleagues, customers and the environment. As a business we take health and safety extremely seriously and as a result have moved away from the use of harsh cleaning chemicals in our business.  Our bathroom deep cleaning service now uses environmentally friendly bio-preparations that contain bio-enzymes, as does our eco-cap urinal odour control product and the cleaning sprays we use to support it.   We even wrote a blog about how the future of hygiene will contain bacteria; have a read here.   In it we suggested that Bio-enzyme products should be seen as a rising star in as the future of hygiene, and view that is further supported by the health implications - discussed above - of continued exposure to harsh chemicals.

Learn more about our environmentally-friendly water saving products.

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie is the Category Manager at Rentokil Initial, and has worked in the hygiene and pest control industry for 12 years. Although after 12 years cockroaches still have the power to terrify her, she has learnt countless ways to defeat germs both in the workplace and at home. She is a passionate advocate for Global Handwash Day and the health benefits that can be derived from regular handwashing and hygiene practices. When not contributing to the Initial blog, Nathalie is writing press releases for sister businesses, Rentokil and Ambius. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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