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Home » News » What’s in Your Household Cleaning Supplies?

What’s in Your Household Cleaning Supplies?

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Most of us have the basics: bleach, oven cleaner, air freshener, furniture polish, and window spray. Did you know that chemicals found in these kinds of cleaning products can be toxic and harmful to your health? In small amounts, they generally don’t cause much damage. But when used on a regular basis or in a poorly ventilated area, the level of toxicity rises.

If you’ve ever gotten a headache or developed watery eyes after scrubbing down your kitchen counters, you may have a sensitivity to the chemicals in your household products.

That Burns

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are gases that are released into the atmosphere, usually from burning fuel sources like wood or gasoline. They can also be found in many household products such as degreasers, aerosol sprays, and disinfectants. These gases are released not only during use, but also when kept in storage or transported between locations.

VOCs are generally less harmful when released outdoors, as the gases are absorbed into the atmosphere. However, in an indoor environment, the gases have 10 times the concentration!

People may come into contact with these compounds by breathing them in or through direct contact with their skin, which can lead to any of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Nausea
  • Impaired coordination (ie. difficulty walking straight, buttoning a shirt, or holding a pen)
  • Eye problems (ie. itching, burning, redness, or soreness in the eyes)

Other Chemical Irritants

Chemicals like sodium hydroxide can be found in oven and drain cleaners. Air fresheners and leather cleaners may contain formaldehyde, which in high amounts, has been linked to certain types of cancer. Even laundry detergents and stain removers can contain irritants.

If you’ve been exposed to these types of chemicals, you may experience trouble breathing, irritation in the eyes, nose or throat, or develop a skin rash. So, use extra caution when handling these kinds of cleaning supplies.

If your job exposes you to higher levels of chemicals from cleaning products, such as janitorial staff or sanitation workers, artificial tears and protective eyewear can help. Use them daily to give you relief from chemical agents that irritate the eyes. Ask your optometrist about which types are best for you.

Immediate Eye Care

Should your eyes come into contact with chemical substances or VOCs, immediately irrigate your eyes with plenty of cold water. Tilt your head so that the exposed eye is down, to avoid flushing the chemical into the good eye, and avoid rubbing your eyes. Rinse your eyes for 15 minutes - this will flush acidic or alkaline chemicals out of the affected areas. This should be your first line of defense, even before calling a doctor.

If you have saline solution or contact lens solution readily on hand (non-peroxide only), administer several drops of solution to the affected eyes. Contact your eye doctor or, if need be, visit an emergency room. Chemical burns can cause serious damage to the cornea, so schedule a checkup with your eye doctor as soon as possible.

5 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Chemical Exposure

Despite the potential harm to your health, there are some things you can do to minimize over exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

1. Wash Your Hands

Our mothers always said it, and with good reason. The #1 way to lower your risk of health issues from chemicals is to wash your hands after handling cleaning products. Use warm water and soap and be sure to wash the hands thoroughly, even if you used gloves. Consider washing to your upper arms in case of a splash or splatter, such as from paint or aerosol sprays.

2. Don’t Rub Your Eyes

Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes until your hands have been completely washed and are clear of any lingering chemical substances. Even a little foreign substance in the eye can be incredibly painful. If you’ve ever had an eyelash stuck in your eye, you know what we mean. So just imagine how severe the pain could be if you accidentally touched your eye after contact with bleach or glass cleaner.

3. Go Outside

Get some fresh air. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, if your eyes burn or you have trouble breathing after using cleaning supplies, go outside. A short walk in the fresh air can quickly open the nasal passages and clear your eyes from strong chemical vapors.

4. Open Some Windows

Make sure there is plenty of ventilation when cleaning or using any chemicals like paint. Open windows or turn some fans on to circulate the air more effectively.

5. Read Labels

Read labels and warnings so you know what’s in the cleaners you’re buying and how to use them safely. Consider trying out some natural cleaning supplies that don't contain VOCs.

About “Green” Cleaning Products

In recent years, so-called “green” products have made their way onto store shelves, but just how green are they, and are they safer than standard ones?

While baking soda and vinegar have long been touted and praised for their cleaning abilities, there is a seeming plethora of new natural disinfectants and general cleaners on the market.

Buzzwords to Look out For

There are some buzzwords you can look out for, which are clues that certain products may not be as natural or as safe as you think. Consumer product manufacturers aren’t required by law to disclose the ingredients in artificial fragrances, so labels may simply list “fragrance” on their ingredient list. Items labeled “natural” are also vague; they don't have to be specified, and not all natural items are necessarily safe. However, if something is listed as “flammable”, that’s a pretty sure sign of a chemical ingredient.

Chemicals & You

Simply being aware of your body’s reaction to the everyday cleaning supplies in your home is the first step. Use these items safely and with caution. For any severe eye pain – especially if you notice any vision changes – talk to your eye doctor right away.

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Dear Northwood Vision patient,

COVID-19 has the potential to cause grave harm to many of the citizens in our population. According to Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Mark Lipsitch it is likely that at least between 40-70 % of the population will become infected with COVID-19. This virus is twice as contagious as the flu. About 80 percent will not have severe concerns, but based on the current data, 20% of the infected will become severe or critical, needing some form of hospital care to do well. Currently, about 30 % of those who become classified as severe based on WHO classification, will not survive. These are the unfortunate realities at the moment.

Meanwhile, at Northwood Vision, we want to do as much as possible to minimize this risk, to prevent mortality and long term side effects, while doing our best to provide the services our patients need. We are convinced you care about these same things. (Read more)

Here is what we are asking you to do to make a smaller exposure footprint:

  1. If you have any symptoms of a cold or flu (coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, running nose, etc), please reschedule your appointment for at least one month from now.
  2. Try not to touch any surfaces in the office you do not have to touch.
  3. If you are trying on glasses, DO NOT put the frames back on the shelf. Rather, we will collect them from you for proper cleaning before they are returned to the shelves.
  4. If you are ordering contact lenses, a year supply (and some 6 month supplies) order can be direct shipped to your home at no cost. Please take advantage of this so you don’t have to come into the office more than necessary.
  5. If you do need to come into the office for an adjustment, please call the office at 727-725-5558 when you arrive in your vehicle. We will let you know if there is a wait and will put you on a list so we can call or text you to come therefore minimizing the time you are in the enclosed space of our office.
  6. Please come to your appointment with the least number of people possible to reduce exposure to them and to others at the office.
  7. If you have any loved ones that have been exposed to the virus or certainly if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness, please wear a mask in case you are an asymptomatic carrier, or if possible, wait at least 4 weeks before coming in for non-essential care.

In an effort to protect you, here is what we are doing to help lower your risk:

  1. All surfaces in the office will be cleaned several times per day with antiviral/antibacterial cleaner. Surfaces in the exam room will be cleaned thoroughly in between each patient.
  2. No sick or symptomatic staff will be permitted to work while sick with a known viral respiratory infection or symptoms, or while directly caring for a sick relative/friend.
  3. For your safety, payments can be done ahead of time over the phone if you call ahead. This will decrease the amount of time you are in the store and your exposure risk in our enclosed space.
  4. No glasses frames other patients try on will be put back on display until the frames are cleaned with an antiviral cleanser.
  5. We are actively asking patients to reschedule for 4 weeks later if they have any symptoms themselves or in their family/ social network.
  6. We are giving options for patients to acquire goods by mail rather than coming into the store.
  7. We altering our schedule to decrease the number of patients that might be in the office at the same time to maximize social distancing.
  8. We are practicing frequent hand washing at our office to protect you and each other.
  9. We will ask patients to reschedule if they present to our clinic with a cough or other COVID-19 symptoms.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this stressful and trying time. Let us all work together to lower risk of the spread so that less people die and less people have permanent side effects from COVID-19. Each of us can do our part. May God bless each of you and keep you well. Thank you for your understanding and care for your fellow humans.

Dr. Christopher K. Keats, OD