Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning: Hygiene is booming, especially in times of Corona, especially cleaning products with a disinfecting effect are popular. Many of these substances smell pleasantly of citrus fruits or pine, so that the nose also knows that the room is now really clean. But what does “clean” mean in this case? In any case, it is not the air that has lost much of its quality.
Researchers analyzed room air while cleaning
The chemist Colleen Rosales was interested in what happens to the room air after intensive use of cleaning agents. She and her team at Indiana University also wanted to know what effects the vapors have on the human respiratory tract. They had a test room of about 20 square meters thoroughly cleaned with commercially available agents and a corresponding scent. They cleaned and buffed for 15 minutes while the researchers thoroughly analyzed the air in the room.
Above all, the scientists found primary volatile organic compounds (VOC, short for Volatile Organic Compounds) and secondary organic aerosols, which everyone who enters the freshly cleaned room inhales. These substances come from the monoterpenes contained in the cleaning agents, the main components of the added essential oils. What does that do to the airways? The consequences are not entirely certain, but the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has serious suspicions. It states that some VOCs can cause headaches, sensory irritation and even organ damage. Cancer is also one of the possible consequences.
These are deep penetrating nanoparticles
At the start of the cleaning action, each person using one of the tested cleaning agents inhales approximately 30 to 40 micrograms of volatile organic compounds per minute, plus 0.1 to 0.7 micrograms of secondary aerosols. That doesn’t seem like much at first, but these are nanoparticles that penetrate deep into the lungs. The particles are about the size of particulate matter from car exhaust gases that collect in urban canyons. According to the studies to date, a cell-damaging effect cannot be excluded. If you want to prevent this, ventilate well during cleaning – and/or use cleaning agents without essential oils and other harmful substances.