How many chemicals will the American public be inhaling after lockdown?
(NaturalHealth365) Natural health experts have long warned of the adverse effects of inhaled chemicals from household cleaners, with recent Harvard research validating their concern. That being said, due to the current virus outbreak, many people are increasing the use of disinfectants in their homes – just as “stay at home” orders cause millions to spend unprecedented amounts of time indoors.
Many experts worry that this ramped-up exposure to inhaled chemicals is exponentially increasing the toxic burden to which we are all exposed – an especially concerning development for those with respiratory disease.
And, the threat is not just confined to our homes. As the nation begins to emerge from lockdown, stadiums and airplanes are beginning to institute a routine of spraying surfaces with potent chemical disinfectants. Is there a way to “strike a balance” and minimize the harm from toxic chemicals in this “virus era?”
Warning: New disinfecting technology will lead to rise in amount of inhaled chemicals
The newest “precautionary measure” being used to reduce the risk of infection, disinfectant-spraying drones, is the brainchild of New York-based tech company EagleHawk. The company, which will launch the drones in stadiums to dispense chemicals from above, says they are receiving “strong interest” from major-league, minor-league and college sports associations.
According to the website, the drones will only use chemicals approved by the EPA and New York Department of Environmental Conservation for effectiveness against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Yet, many wonder how safe these substances really are.
Meanwhile, several airlines – American, Delta, United, Spirit and Frontier among them – are “fogging” their planes to kill pathogens and protect passengers against viral infections. The procedure is performed during scheduled overnight cleanings, when workers dispense a fog of “safe to breathe” disinfectants on interior surfaces prior to physically cleaning the plane.
Some of the areas to be fogged include seats, inflight entertainment screens, tray tables, overhead bins and lavatories. A Delta spokesperson said that the fogging procedure uses a high-grade, EPA-registered disinfectant and virucide that is safe to inhale and is highly effective against many communicable diseases, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
For many, though, doubt remains as to the safety of the procedure.
Can we really trust the EPA not to unleash toxic chemicals on the public?
Lest we forget: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notoriously claimed safety for glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Bayer’s popular weed killer Roundup. Yet health advocates maintain that the herbicide is linked with cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees – and in 2015 classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” Over 10,000 lawsuits filed against Bayer Corporation currently allege that glyphosate causes cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In recent cases, courts have found for the plaintiffs. In 2019, a jury ordered Monsanto (Roundup’s prior owner) to pay a $2 billion-plus settlement to a married couple who had developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after long-term use.
Unsurprisingly, the EPA continues to maintain that there are no risks to health when glyphosate is used properly.
Harvard study reveals link between fumes from cleaning chemicals and chronic respiratory disease
While corporations assure us that their disinfectants are safe, a long-term 2017 study conducted by Harvard University and involving 55,000 US nurses disclosed a strong association between bleach-containing chemical cleaners and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, or COPD.
After following the participants for three decades, researchers found that participants who used chemical disinfectants just once a week had a 32 percent higher risk of COPD, a debilitating respiratory condition that causes difficulty breathing and affects about 13 million Americans.
And, a separate study found that women who regularly used chemical cleaning solutions had poorer respiratory function than those who didn’t. In fact, the amount of lung function the women lost was nearly equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
The message: even minimal exposure to chemical fumes can have significant effects on lungs over the span of years. In fact, using household cleaners on a regular basis is enough to eventually cause COPD.
Unsurprisingly, people with pre-existing lung problems are more susceptible to damage. Breathing in chemical fumes can accelerate and worsen the development of COPD, with even brief exposures triggering inflammation in the lungs and causing wheezing, coughing and severe shortness of breath.
A variety of lung-damaging “villains” can contribute to COPD
The Harvard researchers noted that bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds – among the most common chemicals found in cleaning products -were particularly likely to cause COPD later in life. Certain volatile organic compounds (VOCS) and chemical fragrances can also damage lungs over time.
Checking labels on disinfectants and sanitizing solutions can help tip you off to the presence of chemical culprits that may lurk within. In addition to ammonia and bleach, be on the lookout for sodium hypochlorite, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, napthalene, formaldehyde, quaternium-15, and 1,-4-dioxide.
Be aware, though. Unless you are an industrial chemist, some of the names can be difficult to decipher. For example, bronopol – an antimicrobial agent – is sometimes listed as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol.
Minimize exposure and protect your health with common-sense techniques
Of course, there may be times when circumstances require the use of a chemical disinfectant. You can minimize your exposure by avoiding spray bottles, using the product in a well-ventilated room and applying the solution with a cloth or sponge.
Even better, you can find safer cleaning and disinfectant products using the Environmental Working Group’s search tool here. Or, make your own natural, non-toxic cleaners using water, baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
Keep in mind, according to experts at Rutgers University, diluted hydrogen peroxide – which is non-irritating to lungs and is considered somewhat safer than chlorine and bleach chemicals – may be effective against viruses present on surfaces.
Action step: Look to consume more antioxidants to protect your health
Environmental toxins can cause the creation of free radicals – unstable molecules that can contribute to disease. Fortunately, free radicals can be scavenged and neutralized by antioxidants, which are created in the body and found in plant-based foods as well.
Important antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, as well as carotenoids (natural plant pigments) such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The mineral selenium also has antioxidant qualities.
You can boost dietary vitamin A with cage-free (organic) eggs or liver from a grass fed animal, vitamin C within organic berries and oranges and vitamin E found in organic nuts and seeds. Naturally, carrots and mangoes are good sources of beta-carotene, while selenium is found in whole grains and nuts.
And, don’t forget about flavorful spices such as turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. These can add a jolt of flavor – along with valuable antioxidant support.
Sources for this article include: