Although household cleaning products are beneficial to society, they expose humans to certain health risks that predispose them to infections, illnesses or even death. According to Mark (2016), household cleaning agents contain an overwhelming number of toxins that can enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin. Barnett (2015) explains that some of the most harmful household cleaning products include oven cleaners, corrosive drain cleaners and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. These products contain chemicals that can irritate the nose, eyes, lungs and throat if inhaled. Moreover, some household cleaning products can cause long term effects such as hormone disruption and the development of cancer (Mark, 2016). It is important to analyze the impacts of household cleaning products on humans so that they can implement measures that mitigate the risks faced. This paper will analyze the adverse effects of household cleaning products on human health, its causalities, and measures that individuals and households can implement to reduce exposure and risk to health.
II. Background information on household cleaning product hazards
In the modern society, people are more cautious about their health than ever before. Society is more educated about the importance of keeping a clean environment to keep away diseases and improve their health (Mark, 2016). However, cleaning products used at home to keep the environment clean contain many chemicals and toxins that can adversely affect the health of humans (Mark, 2016). For instance, some of the common cleaning agents contain toxic substances such as chlorine, Sodium Hydroxide, ammonia, 2-Butoxyethanol, Perchloroethylene (PERC), and Formaldehyde among other chemicals (Ed Light, 2009). These products have been identified as dangerous chemicals that can cause long term illnesses or fatalities to humans if they are ingested (Jowie, 2015). In the United States, home poison-related emergencies form a large component of all emergency calls made by people. Children are the most affected as some ingest these products without regard for their adverse effects on their bodies (Hayley et al., 2012). It is therefore important to develop knowledge on the effects of household cleaning products on human health and corrective measures that should be implemented to reduce health risks to humans.
III. How household cleaning products can harm humans
There are diverse ways in which household products can affect human health. The first is that toxic chemicals in these products predispose children to respiratory problems. Research by Sherriff et al. (2005) revealed that the increased frequency of use of cleaning products led to persistent wheezing in children. Additionally, children who were born to mothers who were exposed to cleaning agents during pregnancy were also twice as likely to wheeze as compared to children whose mothers were not exposed to these chemicals. According to research by Light (2009), almost 27% of cleaning agents contain chemicals that cause asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Another effect is the increased risk of lung cancer and research by Méthot (2018) revealed that when some of household cleaning products mix with water or other substances such as air, they emit fumes that when breathed in for a long time, can lead to the development of lung cancer. According to Light (2009), about 15% of home cleaning products contain cancerous substances. Moreover, some cleaning products have been associated with other forms of cancer that include skin cancer, especially when corrosive agents such as oven cleaners, corrosive drain cleaners and acidic toilet bowl cleaners, are handled with bare hands (Méthot, 2018). The increased use of cleaning agents in homes has also resulted in an increase in the incidences of poisoning. When these substances are not handled well or when they are ingested accidentally, they can cause serious threats to human health.
IV Causes of the Problem
The main cause of the risk to human health posed by household cleaning products is the high level of toxicity of substances contained in the products. Many corporations that develop cleaning products do not expose the harmful ingredients that are used to manufacture them, and they coin phrases such as ‘fragrance’ to hide the true chemical composition of the household cleaning products (Light, 2009). Moreover, lack of regulation on the toxicity of home cleaning products exposes consumers to health risks if such substances come into contact with their bodies.
Another major cause of the problem is the lack of knowledge by the general public on the health risks of home cleaning products. Many people believe that these products are safe as long as they are sold in stores and no one has warned them about any dangers they might cause. Lack of awareness and ignorance has greatly contributed to adverse health outcomes in the use of household cleaning products. Moreover, parental neglect in terms of protecting children from harmful substances has also contributed to the health issue, as children may accidentally or intentionally ingest these substances without being aware of the health risks they face (Sherriff et al., 2005).
Finally, inappropriate product handling is another cause of the health risks human face when using household cleaning products (Jowie, 2015). Some of these products require use of safety clothing such as gloves to prevent harm to the human body. According to Jowie (2015), research findings revealed that 20% of janitors receive burns to the skin or eyes as a result of cleaning agents while another 12% face adverse health effects due to inhaling fumes from these chemicals. These accidents may be prevented through use of safety clothing when handling toxic cleaning substances.
V Solutions to the Problem
There are different solutions that should be implemented to reduce risk to human health when dealing with household cleaning products. The first is dissemination of information to the general public on the adverse effects of such products, including how to handle them safely and remedies for injury or harm occasioned by the cleaning products (Mark, 2016). This knowledge will enable consumers to exercise caution when using these products.
The second solution is regulating the toxicity of cleaning products to reduce harm to humans. Regulators of consumer products should enact regulations and implement them to ensure that cleaning products have minimal health effects on humans. They should require manufacturers to state ingredients used in manufacturing them, how to properly handle the products, and issue warning labels for products that are toxic (Jowie, 2015). This solution will minimize human risk and educate consumers on proper handling of toxic household products. Moreover, manufacturers of household products that fail to educate consumers and the risks of using their products should be held liable for health injuries to consumers associated with their products.
Home cleaning substances and detergents have been identified as hazardous as they contain toxic substances that cause an array of infections and diseases such as respiratory illnesses and cancer. For this reason, manufacturers of cleaning products and government regulators should educate consumers on the hazards they face and help protect them from the dangers posed by these chemicals.
Barnett, S. (2015). Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner
Planet. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Ed Light, M. (2009). Efficacy of “Green” Cleaning Products with respect to Common respiratory viruses and mold Growth. Journal of Environmental Health, 4, 24-28.
Jowie, S. (2015). Health Issues and Environmental Impact of Cleaning Agents. International
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Mark, S. (2016). Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for
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Méthot, D. (2018). A Healthy Life on a Healthy Planet: What We, as Individuals, Can Do to
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Sherriff, A., Farrow, A., Golding, J., & Henderson, J. (2005). Frequent use of chemical
household products is associated with persistent wheezing in pre-school age children. Thorax, 60(1), 45–49. doi:10.1136/thx.2004.021154. Retrieved April 29th 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1747149/
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