Aerosol Cleaning Supplies and Asthma

Sloane Miller Health Guide

    As part of Blog Action Day, today's blog will focus on the environment and allergies and asthma.


    How many of you feel a little wheezy after using a spray in your bathroom to clean the tile or toilet? Perhaps you feel breathless after freshening the air and you don't know why?


    According to this recent study published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, "The researchers found that cleaning sprays, especially air fresheners, furniture cleaners and glass-cleaners, had a particularly strong effect [in creating asthma symptoms]." The study continues: "Frequent use of household cleaning sprays may be an important risk factor for adult asthma ...The relative risk rates of developing adult asthma in relation to exposure to cleaning products could account for as much as 15 percent, or one in seven of adult asthma cases."

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    Jeez, this is not good news -- but it's certainly not surprising. When I use that "scrubbing bubble" spray in my tub, I immediately get wheezy so I don't use it; I switched back to good old fashion Ajax which frankly still gives me some lung tightness. I really need to switch to something less irritating. What about you?


    This study supports what may of us with allergies and asthma know intuitively and is a reminder: it's time to put down the propellant cans and start using good old-fashioned elbow grease to clean our homes. There are great green home products that are environment and lung friendly. Better yet, vinegar, lemon, and water may be all the cleaning we really need. [See this article by for some other cleaning ideas.]


    How did this happen so quickly; the switch from elbow grease to propellant based sprays? On an early episode of this season's Mad Men [have any of you been watching it? Go watch it, it's on demand for free] the advertising agency gets a new client in 1960: Right Guard with its space age technology of spraying on deodorant to American men's underarms.


    Using these products, it turns out, hasn't been the science-send it was meant to be -- in fact, it may have done more harm than good in a very short time: bad for the external environment [ozone layer depletion] and bad for our internal environment [decreased lung function for even occasional users].


    What to do? If there is an asthma sufferer in your home, consider moving away from spray household cleaning products to green products or even simpler solutions that your grandmother or great-grandmother might have used.







    I heard Laurie David speak last spring and her most powerful statement was: "Everyone doesn't have to do everything, but everyone has to do something." You can find her easy actionable tips here. Here's what I did immediately and what you can do RIGHT NOW on Blog Action Day:


    • Unplug unnecessary devices [hairdryers, DVD players, radios/stereos, electric toothbrushes or shavers] around the house when not in use; only plug them in when you need to use them.
    • When your incandescent light bulbs burn out, replace them with CFL light bulbs.
    • Don't charge your cell phone overnight -- unplug it as soon as it's finished.
    • Walk and take mass transit every chance you can.
    • Con Edison here in New York has a list of how to go green with your energy. Perhaps your local power provider has a green list? Ask them.


  • Happy Blog Action Day!

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Published On: October 15, 2007