ECE programs prevent infectious disease by using; cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products. In the past, little thought was given to the risks posed by these products. Many people mistakenly think that if a cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting product is sold to the public it has been reviewed and proven safe by government agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that products labelled as sanitizers or disinfectants to kill the germs that the product claims to kill, but the registration review does not evaluate all possible health risks for users of the products. Cleaning products are also not routinely reviewed by the government to identify health risks to the user. Some manufacturers choose to have the EPA evaluate their cleaning products for human health and environmental safety through the Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program, but this is voluntary and most products are not reviewed.
We are constantly learning more about the potential health problems of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products. Some of these chemicals affect air quality and can cause or trigger health problems such as asthma. For example, 11% of people with work-related asthma in California connected their asthma to cleaning and disinfecting products. Over half of these patients never had asthma before being exposed to the products – inhaling the products caused their asthma. Four out of the 5 people diagnosed with work-related asthma in this study were bystanders. They were not working directly with cleaning or disinfecting chemicals. They were simply nearby and exposed to them.
Because these products have risks, it is important to choose the safest products available. Many companies are developing new, effective products that contain less hazardous chemicals and are safer.