Each year about six out of every hundred professional janitors are injured by the chemicals that they use. Burns to the eyes and skin are the most common injuries, followed closely by breathing toxic fumes.
One third of the cleaning chemicals used today have ingredients that can harm you. These ingredients are in products for cleaning glass, restroom fixtures, metal, kitchens, carpets, and hard floors, to name only a few.
Are Your Cleaners Safe?
Read The Label – Avoid products that have the words “Danger”, “Poison”, or “Warning”. When you must use a strong product to get the job done, protect yourself by wearing gloves & goggles, and be sure that your work area has plenty of fresh air.
Call Customer Service – Most labels have an “800″ number to call with questions. Ask the customer service people to tell you if the product you are using has hazardous ingredients that may harm you. If there is no phone number on the container, ask the store where you bought the product.
Read The Safety Data Sheet – The customer service staff can send you a Material Safety Data Sheet, or “MSDS”, for the product. This sheet explains what is in the cleaner, how these ingredients might harm you, and how to protect yourself while using it. Many companies also have MSDSs on their web site.
What Cleaners Have The Most Risk?
|Product Type||Hazardous Ingredients||How These Can Harm You|
General Purpose Cleaner
Carpet Spot Remover
|A solvent called “Butoxyethanol”||Butoxyethanol absorbs through your skin and poisons your blood, liver, & kidneys. Wear gloves when you use cleaners with this ingredient.|
|Toilet Cleaner||Hydrochloric Acid
|These acids are very good for removing hard water rings, but they can also blind you in seconds. Wear your gloves and goggles, or better yet change to a milder product (one with Citric Acid – strong lemon juice).|
Heavy Duty Degreaser
|Sodium Hydroxide||Oven cleaner in a spray can – very convenient, but also very dangerous. Sodium hydroxide can blind you, and the vapors can harm your lungs. Use it with care – wear gloves & goggles, and provide lots of fresh air.|
Want More Info?
Download the factsheets, commentaries, and tools that we have published on this web site. You can find them and links to other sites by using the buttons along the left side of your screen.
Updated Jan 2002
About The Work
We started with several janitorial chemical projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, and continued during 2001 in Southern California.
Download information about our 2001 work here.
Download a fact sheet about our earlier efforts here.
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