It’s a fact—the COVID-19 pandemic has motivated us to clean more than ever before. A 2021 survey even suggests people are using 74% more cleaning products and cleaning 70% more frequently than before!
And while many thought they were doing their health a favor by obsessively cleaning their homes and offices, a study released last month proves the exact opposite.
Cleaning with many commercial cleaners may produce aerosols and gases as harmful to our bodies as car exhaust. But not all cleaners proved to be this toxic.
The main culprits for indoor pollution were monoterpene-based cleaning products (an example of which are cleaning products with pine or citrus scent).
Monoterpenes that give a fresh scent to these cleaning products actually belong to the most harmful group of indoor pollutants—VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
VOCs released by cleaning products may cause headaches, lightheadedness, and eye and nose irritation. What’s more, according to experts, long-term exposure can even lead to organ damage or even cancer.
But these weren’t the only dangers detected in the research.
Scientists measured the presence of radicals, gas-phase precursors, oxidants, and aerosols after and during a cleaning session and came to a worrying conclusion.
In small, poorly ventilated areas, VOCs oxidized and induced the creation of other types of aerosols (secondary organic aerosols or SOAs), which are as harmful as the VOCs for cardiopulmonary health.
Depending on ventilation in your home space, these volatile compounds can briefly reach astounding concentrations. The concentrations turned out to be comparable to a rush hour’s worth of car exhaust.
Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself from these harmful particles.
For example, you could wear a protective mask while cleaning, use the products mentioned above in well-ventilated areas, or simply opt for non-scented, monoterpene-free hardwood floor cleaners and other natural cleaning agents.