The Health Effects of Cleaning with Aerosol Sprays

Aerosol sprays send a very fine mist of particles or droplets into the air. They’ve been used for decades to dispense cleaning chemicals and air fresheners. Chemicals sprayed into the air, however, may be inhaled or absorbed by the skin, which can sometimes cause adverse health effects.

Unclean indoor environments can make people sick or trigger allergy and asthma attacks; however, the very products used to remove these pollutants can contribute to indoor toxins.

One major concern is exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can be dangerous to human health.

According to a report from Air Quality Sciences, Inc., products packaged as an aerosol increase the potential for exposure to VOCs because they atomize the particles during use. The particles, which are smaller and lighter, “can be inhaled more deeply into the lung, stay suspended longer in the air than larger, heavier particles, and can travel around an indoor environment easier via the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system.”

In contrast, cleaning products delivered using a trigger sprayer, course mist, stream or in a bucket diminish the risk for exposure.

A connection has also been established between spray cleaners and the incidence of asthma and other respiratory difficulties in adults.

“The continued use of aerosols by cleaning workers can trigger asthma,” says researcher Jan-Paul Zock, who was part of a project that looked into the effects of aerosol cleaning products. He says these products release harmful chemicals into the air that we, in turn, breathe. Zock says his findings are echoed by other studies that found cleaning professionals have a disproportionately higher rate of asthma than in the rest of the workforce.

Some of the chemicals found in solvents, cleansers and aerosol propellants such as chlorinated hydrocarbons can be highly toxic to humans. According to Health Canada, chlorinated hydrocarbons are mostly absorbed into the body through breathing, but they can also be absorbed through the skin and the mouth.

Those suffering from the acute effects of chlorinated hydrocarbons exposure, says Health Canada, can usually recover completely. For those repeatedly exposed, however, adverse health effects can include depression of the central nervous and even permanent damage, as well as irritation of the eyes and lungs, and damage to the skin, liver and kidneys.

Given the potential risks of using aerosol sprays, we avoid them at Allcare since we don’t like to take risks with the health of our employees and clients.