More than a Fresh Smell: What your Cleaning Solutions are Leaving Behind Other than a Great Scent.

Like so many of you, at 18, I moved out independently and had to learn to clean for myself. I went to the store and bought the typical supplies my parent’s kept around the house.

These supplies are the same products people have used for decades, like bleach. Their cost-effectiveness and convenience have made them a preferred method for commercial and residential cleaning. Not to mention their effectiveness, recently, the EPA developed a tool that shows disinfectants against COVID-19, and many of your household cleaners will be on that list. These products keep many people safe from disease, but they leave other things behind.

For instance, according to the CDC, there has been almost a 20% increase in the number of calls about exposure to household chemicals, cleaners and disinfectants in recent years. When looking at their usage, one in three people used chemicals to improperly clean and that number increases a little more when applied to COVID-19 disinfection. Plus, one in four people reported at least one negative health effect that they believed was from usage of these products.

But what other options do we have? Bleach is effective at killing most pathogens, but it also comes with inherent dangers, such as fumes and toxicity. Do we have to absorb the risk of using a toxic substance to help prevent us from a pathogenic one? 

To answer this question, we must first understand what cleaning chemicals are and how they disinfect.

How Cleaning Chemicals Work

With over 70,000 products being produced by the chemical industry each year, there is a laundry list (pun intended) of options for any person to choose from. Most of these options fall in 3 categories: all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, and bleach. All-purpose cleaners contain solvents, disinfectants, and grease-cutting agents that include chemicals such as ammonia, ethylene, and several others. Laundry detergents contains enzymes designed that loosen stains, dirt, and other items contained in fabrics. Bleach contains the chemical hypochlorite that is diluted to between 1-5%. 

Again, most of these products are going to be on the EPA’s disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 list. In order to qualify, the EPA developed a list of agents or active ingredients that can kill all known strains and variants of COVID-19. This list includes quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), which are the most common; bleach; alcohols (ethanol and isopropanol); hydrogen peroxide; acids; and phenolic compounds.

Active ingredients can either be volatile or non-volatile. Unlike many things in our lives, in the world of chemicals, volatility can be in a good thing. When it comes to cleaning agents, volatile ingredients often do not cause any long-term effects because they are not stable enough to exist for a long period of time. On the other hand, non-volatile chemicals are stable enough to last for extended periods of time, which means they chemicals are around long enough for prolonged exposure.

These household chemicals work in many ways, but they all have a common goal. To work on a cellular level to destroy the cell walls of germs and pathogens. For example, bleach affects the composition of the cellular components like amino acids and DNA. QACs deactivate enzymes which weaken the nature of the cell and disrupt its membranes. Alcohols denature proteins, which kills them. While all of this sounds really technical, it is all just different methodologies of the same task, break down a pathogen at a cellular level to ensure the surface is purified.

If These Products Break Down Cells, Are They Dangerous To Me?

Fortunately, we’re much stronger than a virus, so we’re not in any immediate danger from being around disinfectants (as long as we follow the instructions), but prolonged exposure can be problematic. 

Earlier, we mentioned that chemicals can be volatile or non-volatile. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) include chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and alcohols. VOCs in higher dosages can effect us in negative ways, including lung health, headaches, and skin reactions. VOCs may not be around in your home for long, but they can easily be elevated from 2 to 5 times higher than what you’ll find in outdoor ambient air. 

Non-volatile conversations, on the other hand, tend to stick around a little longer. For instance, QAC can adhere to certain surfaces or absorb onto dust particles. Since they are non-volatile these reactions don’t destroy the disinfectant and it remains in your home or office. The primarily negative effects of these are irritation and allergies, so for anyone who is sensitive, it can appear like a chronic condition. 

Of course, all the side effects discussed above assume you are using them within standard practice. And if you ever are exposed directly these chemicals, make sure to call 911 or your poison hotline.

What About Bleach? I Use It All The Time!

Bleach is one of the most common household chemical cleaning and disinfecting agents. In fact, you’re probably around bleach all the time, whether at the home or office. Bleach by itself is not particularly dangerous when used properly. It is a non-volatile chemical as mentioned above, but there isn’t anything inherently more harmful about bleach than other non-volatile chemicals. 

Where bleach becomes dangerous is when not used properly, by accident or intent. For instance, when combined with ammonia, they form chlorine gas, which can burn the lungs and be fatal. This is why you’ve probably heard not to mix bleach with any other household cleaners, because it’s not just ammonia that can create a reaction. Several other chemicals, such as certain laundry detergents, can also have severe negative effects when combined with bleach.

A Quick Note On illumiPure Solutions

At this point, I think it’s important to recognize that most times, these types of accidents occur not with any intent, but just human error. As I’m writing, I’m thinking about my 2 year old, and how often I forget to fold the laundry and it sits the dryer overnight. This is just one type of human error. As smart as I’d like to think that I am, I just as easily could use two cleaning agents I shouldn’t, while speeding through everything else I need to do in the day to day. 

One of the reasons using a disinfection solution from illumiPure is effective, is the reduction of possible human error. For instance, our CleanWhite™ technology emits surface disinfecting light with little maintenance. It’s a human free solution, which means it’s a human-error free solution, which helps everyone who travels through the room.

How do Chemicals Enter the Body, and What Happens Next?

Of course, we are surrounded by chemicals all the time, and nothing bad happens. That’s because in order for chemicals to affect you, they have to enter your body, and more specifically need a mode to enter your bloodstream. There are

Chronic health issues related to disinfectants or any small trace substance are dangerous because they appear significantly later in life, with years or even decades between the event and the outcome, so they are hard to be detected and classified. As a result, scientists can only really determine these effects through longitudinal studies, or studies that measure people over time. 

Chronic health issues also tend to be significant and lethal. For instance, a short-term dizziness is inconvenient, but an increased risk in lung cancer is certainly more deadly even if it occurs decades later.

We can take bleach and ammonia as a good example of this. Although the combination of bleach and ammonia for chloramine gas can be lethal, poison control generally considers them on the lower end of risk and severity of potential poisons.  If, on the other hand, a person is consistently exposed to small, non-noticeable traces of chlorine gas for a long period of time, you increase your chance to develop lung disease (fortunately, most people will, go on to have full recovery. that this can happen, breathing, skin or eye contact, and ingestion. Your bloodstream then carries everything, good and bad, throughout your body, empowering or damaging you internal organs, such as your kidneys, liver, and heart.

Based on the dosage level and personal tolerance, you may or may not experience health issues based on the chemicals in your bloodstream. Many people have experienced acute, or short-term side effects from using these chemicals, such as feeling a little dizzy after cleaning something with bleach. 

Again, for most people, these are little more than inconveniences, like stopping and walking into the other room for a minute.

Consistent dosage and exposure tends to lead to the real problems, which are chronic health effects.

A note about bleach:

We mentioned this earlier in the article but wanted to reiterate the danger that bleach, in particular, represents.  Bleach by itself is immediately and acutely harmful if put in direct contact with eyes or ingested, and can have acute toxic reactions when combined with other chemicals. For instance, mixing bleach and ammonia makes chloramine gas, which can be fatal. If you have any questions about the safety of the products you are using, refer to their instruction manuals.   

What is a Chronic Health Issue and Why are they so Dangerous?

Chronic health issues related to disinfectants or any small trace substance are dangerous because they appear significantly later in life, with years or even decades between the event and the outcome, so they are hard to be detected and classified. As a result, scientists can only really determine these effects through longitudinal studies, or studies that measure people over time. 

Chronic health issues also tend to be significant and lethal. For instance, a short-term dizziness is inconvenient, but an increased risk in lung cancer is certainly more deadly even if it occurs decades later.

We can take bleach and ammonia as a good example of this. Although the combination of bleach and ammonia for chloramine gas can be lethal, poison control generally considers them on the lower end of risk and severity of potential poisons.  If, on the other hand, a person is consistently exposed to small, non-noticeable traces of chlorine gas for a long period of time, you increase your chance to develop lung disease (fortunately, most people will, go on to have full recovery.

Should We Stop Using Chemical Disinfectants?

No

At illumiPure, we believe that the best results come from multi-layered solutions to problems. In a couple paragraphs from now, you can read all about our solutions, but for now, just know that there are other options that will allow you to minimize the use of chemical disinfectants, and therefore minimize your exposure and risk whenever for whenever a chemical disinfectant is necessary.

Minimizing Chemical Disinfectant Risk

By now, it is hopefully clear that even when you clean, some chemicals may be left behind that you don’t want to be around. Even though you may not be able to see all the remnants, there are still preventative measures you can take to ensure your own safety and the reduction of any long-term adverse health effects for those around you.

The primary method of reducing exposure is increasing air flow. Odds are, if you start to smell anything (good or bad), it is an indication that air is not moving quickly enough in the area. If you are at the home or at the office, a couple simple things you can do is turn on your exhaust fan or open a window. You can also use a standard fan to move air from one room to the next or outside. Whether in reference to disinfectants or disease the CDC consistently says changing room air is one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves safe. 

If you’re a building owner or builder, you can look at improving your HVAC system if you find consistent odd smells and some other indication you may have long term traces of disinfectants in part of your buildings. In this case, you can consult a mechanical engineer and see what your options are. 

If you’re a tenant or residential home owner, you can also look at finding an air purifier that uses a fan that increases the room air changes in the room. This would be similar to increasing your HVAC system, only localized to the part of the office or property that you are in control of. Unfortunately, air purification system only deal with particulate matter and generally don’t affect gas (although air purifier that increase room air changes should, in theory, dissipate the gas faster).    

The other preventative action you can take to lower your exposure is to wear preventative equipment such as gloves or protective eyewear. Similar to the problems of the air purifier, this equipment, at a residential grade, will not protect you directly from any gasses. They will protect you from have the disinfectants remain on your skin and hands from any future eye or mouth touching, reducing your long term exposure. 

And of course, wash your hands after use.

 

What are Viable Alternatives to Chemical Disinfection?

At this point, you may not want to use disinfectants anymore, but even with all my knowledge from working at illumiPure, I still need to use them from time to time and that’s okay. What I am able to do, is use additional technology to minimize my use of chemical disinfectants in my home and at our office. 

Here’s what it looks like:

We start with a UV-based surface disinfection. At illumiPure, we of course use our Clean White™ solution. And we don’t just use it because it’s ours, we use it because of our patented 405+470 wavelength solution ensures we get the natural LED light replicates sunlight, helping us stay alert and focused, with the safest bands of blue bands like that have been proven to kill even the most resistant pathogens. UV light is scientifically proven to remove surface and air particles in a consistent way, and it happens in minutes when used properly.

We also have our Air Guardian™ in place to make sure that we’re safe. In the last paragraph, we talked about how air purifiers aren’t effective against gas; now let’s talk about why they are effective. Most pathogens may start on surfaces, but in order to affect you, they often become aerosolized (go airborne). The Air Guardian will continuously take these particles out of the room and replace them with clean air, meaning that the overall need for disinfectants decreases.

That doesn’t mean that when I spill my soda on the table (which happens more than I’d care to admit), I wait for nature to take its course, I grab a disinfectant, but there are plenty of safe alternatives. For instance, vinegar and baking soda are natural alternatives that can be used in several instances. In fact, the EPA has developed a whole list of environmentally safe alternatives that you can find here.   

This is why illumiPure recommends a multi-layered approach to disinfecting and purifying your home or office. To ensure the highest level of safety for you and your family, layers of protection that minimize human error must be developed. In our case, surface disinfection, air purification, and natural disinfectants do the trick.   

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Chris Romani

Chris Romani is the Chief Marketing Officer of illumiPure. After receiving his Master's Degree, Chris has worked for the last decade on the marketing of manufactured products. Chris has advocated for transparency of health-related data of these products and sees health and wellness as a primary purchasing influencer of many products today.

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