woman mother toddler baby Be it at home or at nursery school, both parents and childcare providers struggle to win the infectious disease battle, or at least declare a truce, through regular use of powerful cleaning and disinfecting agents. While these cleaners may protect your child by defeating the germs, they may also pose potential health risks due to the sometimes toxic ingredients they contain. And while you cannot control the toxins that permeate public facilities, you do have a say in the how you choose to keep your own home clean.

Keeping a clean house is a necessary step in providing a safe living environment. Through proper cleaning and disinfection in the kitchen, for example, contact with disease-causing bacteria from raw or undercooked meat, shellfish, fish, and eggs can be reduced. But the products we use to clean the house can also have unintended health consequences.

Some research regarding the health risks of cleaning products has focused on adult janitorial staff working with industrial cleaners in settings outside of the home. This is because they tend to use more powerful and concentrated cleaning products daily. While household cleaners tend to be more dilute and less potent than their industrial-strength counterparts, many do contain some of the same potentially harmful ingredients. And while both children and adults are susceptible to the consequences of toxic chemical exposure, children are more susceptible because of their rapidly growing bodies and immature immune systems.

Some chemicals that may be a concern include:

  • Ammonia
  • Aerosol propellants
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Paradichlorobenzenes (PDCBs)
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Phenols
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like:
    • Nitrobenzene
    • Toluene
    • Methylene
    • Chloride
    • Formaldehyde
    • Ethylene glycol

These compounds can be found in floor and carpet cleaners, degreasers, toilet/tub/tile cleaners, room deodorizers, oven cleaners, furniture polishes and waxes, laundry detergents, and disinfectants.