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Household cleaning mistakes that inadvertently increase the risk of asthma

Health and Mental Health

Household cleaning mistakes that inadvertently increase the risk of asthma

Recent insights have highlighted how common cleaning practices could be worsening asthma risks, particularly when using harsh chemicals in poorly ventilated spaces.

Mistakes such as the overuse of heavily fragranced cleaners and inadequate ventilation have been pinpointed, which significantly elevate indoor pollutants and trigger asthma symptoms. Plumbworld has identified three significant and hazardous cleaning mistakes that can contribute to asthma symptoms or its development.

1 – Using Highly Fragranced or Ammonia-Based Cleaners: A frequent mistake is the use of heavily fragranced products or cleaners containing ammonia. These substances emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other irritants that can trigger asthma attacks. When used in enclosed spaces without proper ventilation, the concentration of these irritants in the air can significantly increase. Ammonia, in particular, is a strong irritant that affects the respiratory tract and can provoke asthma symptoms. Studies have shown that indoor VOC levels are consistently higher when using these products, potentially up to five times greater than outdoors. This concentration can exacerbate or even cause asthma in sensitive individuals.

2 – Improper Ventilation While Cleaning: Another major mistake is failing to ventilate rooms adequately during and after cleaning. Cleaning activities can stir up dust, mould spores, and chemical fumes, all of which are potential asthma triggers. Without proper ventilation, these particles and gases accumulate indoors and significantly degrade indoor air quality. For asthma sufferers, this means prolonged exposure to triggers that can lead to more frequent and severe asthma episodes. Research indicates that maintaining good ventilation can reduce indoor pollutant levels by up to 70%, highlighting the importance of fresh air in mitigating asthma risks associated with cleaning.

3 – Overuse of Bleach and Similar Disinfectants: While bleach is effective at killing germs, its overuse is particularly problematic for those with asthma. The fumes from bleach can irritate the airways, leading to bronchial inflammation, a precursor to asthma attacks. Furthermore, mixing bleach with other common household cleaners like ammonia can create chloramine vapours, which are even more dangerous and can cause respiratory and eye irritation. The risks are exacerbated in homes with poor ventilation, where fumes can linger and continually irritate the respiratory system. Data from health studies suggest that frequent exposure to bleach fumes can increase the risk of developing asthma by up to 30% in individuals who did not previously suffer from respiratory conditions.

Preventive Measures:
  • Choose Asthma-Friendly Products: Opt for cleaning products labelled as low-VOC, fragrance-free, or certified as asthma-friendly by health organisations. These products are specifically designed to minimise respiratory irritants.
  • Ensure Good Ventilation: Always keep windows open while cleaning and for a while afterwards to ensure fresh air circulation. This helps disperse any chemical fumes and reduces the concentration of indoor pollutants.
  • Use Natural Cleaning Solutions: Consider using natural alternatives like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice for cleaning. These substances are effective for many cleaning tasks and are much less likely to provoke asthma symptoms compared to conventional cleaning chemicals.
  • Regularly Clean or Replace Filters: HVAC systems, air purifiers, and vacuum cleaners all use filters that trap dust and allergens. Regularly cleaning or replacing these filters can maintain good air quality and reduce asthma triggers in the home.
  • Follow Safe Product Use Guidelines: Always read and follow the usage instructions on cleaning products. This includes using the recommended amounts and not mixing different chemicals, which can create harmful fumes and increase health risks.

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