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New Research Shows Very High Risk for Developing
Asthma from Household Cleaners

You clean your house often, hoping to eliminate bacteria, viruses and other germs as much as possible, but did you know that the very act of cleaning could be harming your health?

spray cleaners

Always keep rooms adequately ventilated during and after cleaning.

Using cleaning sprays and air fresheners at least once a week can increase your risk of asthma by 30-50 percent, according to European researchers.

The team analyzed data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, which included information about 22 centers in 10 countries, along with interviews some nine years later.

They found that people who used cleaning sprays at least weekly had a 50 percent increase in asthma symptoms, wheeze and medication use. Meanwhile, people who used the sprays at least four days a week were twice as likely to be diagnosed with asthma.

The more you use spray household cleaners and air fresheners, the higher your risk of asthma appears to be, the researchers found. The products most commonly associated with asthma were those most commonly used, including air fresheners, glass cleaners and furniture-cleaning sprays.

The problem is so pervasive that the researchers believe exposure to cleaning products could be responsible for 15 percent of, or one in seven, adult asthma cases.

How do household cleaners cause asthma? The exact reasons are still unknown, but it could be the sensitizers that the products contain (such as disinfectants and amines) that could cause a sensitization resulting in asthma.

The products may also cause an inflammatory response that could trigger asthma.

Risks of Household Cleaning Products Beyond Asthma

Asthma is just one health risk that's been linked to household cleaning products and air fresheners. Others, including those that have artificial "clean-smelling" lemon, pine or orange scents, may give off excessive levels of toxic pollutants.

Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed 21 household cleaners and air fresheners and found that:

  • Six of the products contained ethylene-based glycol ethers, which are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  • 12 products contained terpenes, which are found in the pine, lemon and orange oils used to give cleaning products their characteristic smells. Terpenes have been found to react with ozone to produce a variety of toxic substances, including formaldehyde (a toxic air contaminant) and secondary organic aerosol (a form of fine particulate matter).

  • Three of the four analyzed air fresheners contained significant amounts of terpenes.

fresh air at home

Avoid using synthetic air fresheners in your home. A safe alternative is to fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of your favorite pure essential oil (try vanilla, peppermint, or lavender). Spray it in the air or on fabrics to remove odors.

What happens if you're exposed to these toxic pollutants? According to the researchers:

  • Cleaning a shower stall for 15 minutes with a product containing glycol ethers may result in exposures that are three times the recommended one-hour exposure limit.

  • Using an air freshener along with an ozone-creating air purifier in a child's room may result in formaldehyde levels that are 25 percent higher than California recommends.

  • If you stay in the kitchen for two hours after using a terpene-containing product, while ozone levels outdoors are high, you would inhale about one-quarter of the total daily guideline value for particulate matter in California.

What's in Your Typical Household Cleaner?

Ironically, many of the products you use to clean your home are toxic for you, your children and your pets. Here is a breakdown of some of the more common ingredients in household cleaners, and their potential risks to your health:

PerfectClean cloths, dusters and mittsReach a Deeper Level of Clean With PerfectClean

Because PerfectClean cloths, dusters and mitts are made of ultramicrofibers that are only 3 microns in size (smaller than many bacteria!), you can use less chemical cleaner -- or even none at all.

  • Hospitals, schools & other commercial organizations that require ultra-clean environments use PerfectClean ultramicrofiber terry cloths over 100 TIMES before replacing them.

  • Unlike the old common types of rags that simply spread microscopic contaminants around when you wipe with them, PerfectClean terry cloths hold fast to everything they pick up!

  • Used wet with water or dry, you don't need to use chemical cleaners to achieve the deepest clean ... Traditional chemical-based cleaners can still be used, but you'll use considerably less as the ultramicrofiber can hold up to eight times its weight in liquid!

  • PerfectClean products are hypoallergenic, perfect for those with allergies.

Learn more about PerfectClean cloths, dusters and mitts now!

  • Phenols, which are caustic compounds that are toxic to your central nervous system, heart, blood vessels, lungs and kidneys.

  • Diethylene glycol found in window cleaners depresses the nervous system.

  • Formaldehyde found in spray and wick deodorizers is a respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen.

  • Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners damage mucous membranes.

  • Perchloroethylene, a spot remover, causes liver and kidney damage.

  • Butyl cellosolve, common in all-purpose, window and other types of cleaners damages bone marrow, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver.

How to Clean Your Home Safely and Naturally

Fortunately, there are many options out there to keep your home clean using non-toxic, yet highly effective, products. highly recommends PerfectClean cloths, dusters and mitts for all of your cleaning needs. PerfectClean terry cloths contain patented built-in antimicrobial protection and are made of ultramicrofibers that are only 3 microns in size, which is even smaller than many bacteria. Because of this unique ultramicrofiber construction, you can reduce the amount of chemical cleaners you use, or even eliminate them altogether.

So, unlike ordinary cleaning rags and sponges, you can use PerfectClean cloths wet with water or dry -- you don't need to use chemical cleaners to achieve the deepest clean, which makes them perfect for anyone who's looking to keep toxic cleaners OUT of their home.

If you choose to use cleaning products, you can opt for natural varieties that do not contain glycol ethers or terpenes.

We like Vermont Organics' Liquid Sunshine Non-Toxic Cleaner, which is a powerful cleaner, with a natural citrus scent, that delivers dramatic results with a multi-functioning non-toxic formula that's safe and mild, even on your skin.

Enviro-Rite also has an excellent line of safe cleaning products -- they contain no hazardous ingredients, petrochemicals, perfumes, dyes or animal byproducts, and they have products for all of your cleaning needs, from carpet and upholstery cleaner to spot lifters.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of natural cleaning supplies like lemons, baking soda and vinegar. Check out Nine Tips to Get Rid of Bad Smells in Common Household Locations to find out how to get your home smelling fresh and clean, using all-natural items that you may already have around your house.

Recommended Reading

Chemical Contaminants Linked to 180 Different Diseases

What Exactly is in Every Breath You Take? Pieces of Bugs, Stars and Much More


American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 176. pp. 735-741, (2007)

California Air Resources Board April 2006 October 12, 2007

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