Asthma and respiratory illness has reached alarmingly high levels in low-income communities. The prevalence of asthma has doubled since 1976 and 6 out of 10 homes are “sick” due to poor indoor air quality. The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as the fourth highest public health risk, with the average home containing over 60 toxic chemicals that cause allergies and disease.
So why focus on changing the way low-income residents clean, when so many things trigger asthma and respiratory illness? Because cleaning is an activity that residents can control — with immediate, significant results. They might not be able to change unhealthy construction practices, but they can choose whether they use ordinary household cleaners.
Perhaps you know that asthma is the most common and chronic illness in school-aged children. But did you also know that exposure to cleaning products accounts for 15% of all asthma cases, according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care? Multiple reports confirm that simple environmental interventions (otherwise known as eliminating the bad stuff) can prevent asthma in high-risk children. The CDC reports decreases of 48% in hospitalizations, 67% in emergency room visits, and up to 30% in missed school days when residents modify certain practices — like switching to green cleaners.
If the above doesn’t convince you, here are a few more sobering facts: the EPA reports that the cleaning products in many homes can make the indoor air quality almost 200 times worse than outdoor air quality! These products can be so hazardous that they are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and considered hazardous waste when discarded.
Over time, we’d like to share information about certain, common cleaning products, and their natural substitutes (like baking soda and vinegar). So, we’ll let you know when we give the low down on disinfectants, detergents/surfactants, degreasers, anti-bacterials, and polishes along with alkaline, emulsion and abrasive cleaners.
Why do we focus on cleaning products? Because, it is unacceptable in an era of green boosterism that something as simple as using a natural cleaner – which is known to remarkably reduce indoor air pollution – isn’t shared with residents living in areas with high rates of respiratory illness.
Want even more facts about indoor air pollution? Check out what Environmental Working Group has to say http://www.ewg.org/node/16209.