Cleaning products and lung health

Reading the BBC news online I came across an article about cleaning products and lung health. A study carried out in Norway found that using a micro fibre cloth and water was suitable for most purposes rather than the products full of chemicals which advertise themselves as killing 99.9% of all bacteria etc.

Cleaning particularly house work is something that has to be done in all homes, offices, public places etc. There is no getting away from it unless you prefer to be in an area which is not cleaned. Not many people enjoy cleaning and it is a chore rather than a hobby or enjoyable past time (forgive me as I know there are some people who do enjoy cleaning and find it therapeutic) with needs to be done. Many will leave it as long as they can possibly get away with before they get the mop, bucket and all the different cleaning products out to make everything sparkle and smell nice while removing the limescale, grease, dust etc from surfaces.

The reason I am writing about this is because for some people like myself cleaning and cleaning products can be life threatening causing acute breathing difficulties and allergic reactions. A study highlighting that water and micro fibre clothes are just as good as Mr Muscle, Cif, Cilit Bang and all the other products which you end up buying which all have a different job to do in the house is fantastic and could potentially remove a massive risk to my health.

You wouldn’t think that cleaning products could cause such big issues. You may be thinking that of course some products particularly those containing bleach will set my asthma off and why am I making a whole blog post dedicated to cleaning products. Well for me other than the strong chemicals posing a risk to my asthma most cleaning products also contain salicylic acid which I am very allergic to.

At home it is ok and I can avoid things that pose a risk by just not using them and finding alternatives. I am in control of what is and what is not used to clean my flat (whether I am doing it or my Mum) so I can eliminate as many risks as possible. However out with my safe haven of home, there are cleaning products everywhere- work, restaurants shops, hospitals etc. I do not know what is being used or what has been used on the objects I touch however with this new evidence suggesting that there is not always a need for chemical products, there is some hope that places may adopt this and change their cleaning regime to water and microfibre clothes.

For those who are not allergic and don’t have difficulties with their breathing must think what am I going on about and why am I making a big deal. Well cleaning products have been life threatening. Once I was not aware that my nebuliser mask had been cleaned by a member of staff on the ward when I had been admitted to hospital. They thought they were being helpful and even the staff member admitted she had assumed you cant be that allergic to even mild cleaning products and she thought it was mainly food stuffs. The result of the clean nebuliser mask was this:

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This photo I took after I had been given oral and IV anti histamine, IV steroids, a number of back to back nebulisers and about 4 hours after the initial reaction. You can clearly see were the nebuliser was on my face and where I have reacted to whatever it was cleaned with and the residual cleaning product left behind.

In hospitals it becomes even trickier to try and avoid cleaning products and many of them seem very toxic given some of the bugs they need to kill to prevent the spread of infection and increasing the number of people having to stay in hospital longer because they have not been able to recover from their initial illness due to developing another illness from exposure to bacteria. I would never expect the NHS or hospitals to change their cleaning regimes as the infection control teams will have assessed the best possible way to ensure the wards are kept clean and safe. Having said that the products used to achieve this do pose a really big threat to me and have resulted as fair few times in me staying longer in hospital due to having an allergic reaction to some sort of cleaning product being used. It has once been such a bad reaction when I was in hospital that I had to be moved to the critical care unit to be stabilised.

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Above is the remains of an allergic reaction. I think this was a good 8-9 hours after the reaction. I was in hospital due to a chest infection which had my asthma worse. I had narrowly avoided going to critical care when I was admitted but did have to be in a monitored bed and attached to all the machines. This meant I wasn’t allowed up to the toilet and had to use a commode- which I used but when I stood back up to get back into bed I felt awful. My skin was burning, itchier than hundreds of midge bites, my heart rate jumped up to 180 ish and breathing was very difficult. Thankfully the respiratory team had just arrived to review me anyway when I had this reaction. The Dr’s were looking at the monitor as my heart was going mad, and my oxygen saturations dropping but the respiratory nurse specialist who was also with them was talking to me from the end of the bed. She said she could just see the bright red rash spread before her eyes and soon I was scarlet all over with parts of it blotchy. Again I was given everything to treat it and quickly moved to the critical care unit. It turned out the commode I had used was cleaned with some other product rather than the normal one so the contact of it on my skin was enough to spark a reaction.

There have been other situation where cleaning products have caused a reaction for example my youngest brother gave me a hug once but the washing powder he used I met have been sensitive to as where bare skin touched his jumper I had a blotchy reaction which looked very bizarre- almost like a golfers tan except the tan was red inflamed irritated skin and not a nice bronze colour.

From this you can see that for me cleaning products pose a huge risk but not predominantly from an asthma point of view but an allergy side. Of course the allergic reaction in turn sets my asthma off due to the irritation to my airways from the chemical etc etc. It would be fantastic if more studies were done which further proved that chemical based cleaning products are not required and water with a micro fibre cloth is just as good.

This would make the risks to many not just myself but other who have allergies or asthma which is triggered by strong smells from cleaning products or the chemicals themselves much less and mean that we are able to preserve our lung function and lung health by not exposing them to harmful triggers. Until the time comes and chemical based products which cause me harm are less widely available I have my own way to try and protect myself. I have a vogmask which many other brittle asthmatics, ILD or CF patients recommended to me. This mask has a filter to can protect me from inhaling the chemicals which could cause a reaction. This won’t eliminate all the risk as there is still the risk from contact. This is the vogmask which can be bought online. I do feel pretty self conscious in it just now if I wear it in public but I am sure as I get used to it and reap the benefits from it then I won’t notice it so much.

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One thought on “Cleaning products and lung health

  1. It is a huge deal. I do not have breathing issues. However one time my fiancé got generic toilet bowl cleaner for our bathroom. I could not use it. I literally felt its toxic presence in my airway. Told him never again. Took me two hours with airing it out to be able to go back in there. I never thought that could happen but it did.

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