Asthma Safe Cleaning Products

Asthma-safe cleaning products reduce the volume of asthma triggers in the house, which in turn can reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks. A variety of different asthma cleaning products offer relief from different triggers, so asthma-safe cleaning products should be bought with individual asthma symptoms in mind.

Defining Asthma

Asthma affects approximately 20 million people in the U.S., including over 6 million children. Asthma occurs when the lungs’ airways become inflamed and swollen, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing.

If they are not treated properly, severe asthma attacks can be fatal.

Asthma attacks occur due to the presence of specific triggers, which may not be the same for each individual. Asthma triggers include:

  • airborne irritants, such as tobacco smoke and air pollutions
  • allergies, such as animal dander, pollen, cockroach allergies, and dust mites
  • cold temperatures
  • respiratory infections.

Asthma and Cleaning Products

Asthma research indicates that janitors and other cleaning workers have twice the rate of occupation-related asthma than other professions. Ammonium quaternary compounds (disinfectants found in cleaning sprays and toilet cleaners) have been linked to occupational asthma, as has monoethanolamine, a chemical found in laundry detergent, floor cleaners and all-purpose cleaners. In addition, compounds called phthalates have been linked to increased asthma symptoms in children. Phthalates are used to “carry” fragrances in cleaning products.

While some cleaning products may trigger asthma, regular cleaning is essential to limit the amount of allergens and other asthma triggers in the home. Fortunately, a number of asthma-safe cleaning products exist. As individuals have different asthma triggers, asthma products need to be chosen on an individual basis.

Asthma-Safe Cleaning Products for Allergens

“Allergens” are common household allergy triggers. Dust mites – tiny microscopic mites that feed on shed human skin cells – are a common asthma trigger. Dust mites are also cross-allergenic with cockroaches, meaning that a person who is allergic to dust mites has a good chance of also being allergic to cockroaches.

Bedrooms usually have the highest concentration of dust mites in the house, especially in bed mattresses and feather-stuffed pillows. Products such as specialty mattress and pillow covers are available to help prevent dust mite build up on and in bedding.

For bedroom linen cleaning, asthma-safe cleaning products include laundry detergent designed to kill dust mites. Look for an unscented detergent that kills dust mites in any temperature water.

Molds and mildew can also trigger asthma attacks. All-purpose cleaners don’t necessarily combat mold very well, so look for cleaners specifically designed to kill mold.

Asthma Products for Airborne Irritants

Airborne triggers for asthma include:

  • air pollution
  • airborne allergens
  • chemicals
  • pollen
  • strong fragrances
  • tobacco smoke.

Some airborne triggers can be controlled: tobacco smoking can be forbidden in the home, for instance, and unscented cleaning products can be used exclusively.

A good quality vacuum that includes a HEPA filter is one of the best asthma products you can buy. The HEPA filter traps microscopic particles, preventing allergens from returning to the surroundings. A HEPA vacuum can be a great help as vacuuming kicks up dust and other allergens. People with asthma may also wish to invest in a stand-alone HEPA filter that can continuously filter allergens and irritants out of the air.

Checking an Asthma-Safe Cleaning Product’s Claims

Just because a cleaning product claims to be asthma-safe does not mean the product really is. Care must be taken when selecting asthma products. ideally, look for cleaning products that are recommended by asthma associations and organizations.

Asthma-safe cleaning products should always be unscented, as strong perfumes and fragrances are a common asthma trigger. A scented cleaning product that claims to be asthma-safe certainly isn’t safe if fragrances set of your asthma attacks.

Remember that different asthma products will be required depending on your personal asthma triggers. If air pollution triggers asthma symptoms you may not need dust mite-killing laundry detergent. Tailor the asthma-safe cleaning products you buy to your specific needs for the best results.

Resources

Cleaning101 (2004). Cleaning products: A valuable ally in the battle against asthma, says SDA. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Cleaning101 Web site: http://www.cleaning101.com/whatsnew/08-27-04.cfm.

Nemours Foundation. (2007). Creating an asthma-safe home. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/asthma/asthma_home.html.

Women’s Voices for the Earth. (n.d.). Asthma and household cleaning products. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Women’s Voices for the Earth Web site: http://www.womenandenvironment.org/campaignsandprograms/SafeCleaning/asthma.