CLEANERS AND JANITORIAL WORKERS
The cleaning industry in the U.S. employs about 3.4 million workers and 90% of maids and housekeeping cleaners are women. As mentioned previously, household cleaning products contain a slew of harmful chemicals including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene, to name a few. Many cleaners contain synthetic fragrances which contain phthalates, a class of chemicals known to affect hormone levels and functioning and neurodevelopment, and correlated with a shorter gestational age. Currently, no legal requirements exist for ingredient labeling on household cleaning products. Women’s Voices for the Earth, an organization based out of Missoula, MT committed to eliminating the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities, commissioned an independent laboratory to test 20 popular household cleaning products to determine if they contain toxic chemicals that are not being disclosed by the manufacturer. The testing performed showed that companies including Glade, Simple Green, Pine Sol, Tide and Febreeze all contained toxic ingredients not listed on their labels. Because most cleaners and janitorial workers are exposed a significantly higher-than-average level of chemicals on a daily basis, making recommendations to reduce their exposure is essential.
Companies including Glade, Simple Green, Pine Sol, Tide and Febreeze all contained toxic ingredients not listed on their labels.
The following are actionable steps any healthcare provider working with this population may recommend:
- Wear protective gloves while handling cleaning products and consider wearing a basic respirator, particularly if pregnant. If you work for a larger janitorial company, a hospital, or the government, request they purchase this protective gear for you.
- Always open windows when cleaning and increase ventilation as much as possible.
- If you supply your own cleaning products, use the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning Products to choose products that are safer. If these products are more expensive, consider using less to offset the cost.
- If your patient's cleaning clients purchase the cleaning products you use, consider suggesting they creating a one-page sheet listing products they request their purchase and why. They are free to use any text from this website to create this. Your patient may wish to explain to their clients that the compounds in the air linger long after you are gone cleaning, and by making safer choices, they are contributing to the health of their family as well.
- Remove work clothes before you return home or as soon as you enter the house and shower quickly thereafter. Don't wash your work clothes with the clothes of other family members.