Cleaning products to be scrutinised

20th of March 2020 Article by Lotte Printz
Cleaning products to be scrutinised

Scandinavian reporter for ECJ Lotte Printz reports on a Swedish study mapping the use of and the health impacts of detergents and cleaning products.

Belgian research has indicated that cleaners are at a high risk of dying from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Other international studies have revealed that chemicals present in detergents and cleaning products may cause reduced lung function and asthma over time. Evidently, the connection between using detergents and contracting lung diseases has already been established, but how it really “hangs together” is still difficult to say.

That’s one of the reasons why FoU (R&D) and the Prevention unit at AFA Insurance in Sweden early this year granted Swedish researcher Linda Schenk 3.822 million Swedish Kroner (nearly €400,000). Linda Schenk, docent in toxicological risk management at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is to examine the professional use of cleaning products, their chemical contents and their impact on health in order to prevent the harm and diseases they may cause.

A great deal of detergents and cleaning products are alkaline and if spilled on the skin, they may cause burns and even cause permanent skin conditions and harm airways in the long run.

While acknowledging the studies carried out by other European researchers Linda Schenk also stressed, speaking to the Swedish cleaning news site Cleannet, the importance of studying these issues on a local scale, ie, from a Swedish perspective.

The Swedish researcher studies the regulation and management of chemicals and how various factors interact in the risk assessment and policy-making process. With the funds now granted her, she can take her research further.

The first step of this research project will be to collect data from the Giftinformationscentralen (the Swedish centre for poison control), the Swedish working environment agency and other databases which have information that looks at professions and the risk of chemical exposure, thus hoping to find a pattern that connects the use of chemicals and diseases.

The research project then moves on to mapping which detergents and cleaning products are being used at workplaces throughout the country and what they contain, as well as examining what is being disclosed about those contents.

In the end, Linda Schenk and her team are to measure workplace exposure.“Which type of products we will focus on will be determined by the results we retrieve. And that will then determine which workplaces we will turn our attention to,” Linda Schenk explained to Cleannet.

Speaking to the same news site, Susanna Stymne Airey, head of FoU and the Prevention unit at AFA Insurance, emphasised that the research they support must benefit working life in general. And the funds channelled into this and other prevention research projects will eventually help reduce workplace injuries and minimise the number of people suffering from ill health as a result of their occupation. Thus, and hopefully, benefitting cleaners.

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