Are We Cleaning Needlessly?

Green cleaning is the current trend that has taken the industry by storm. Every other company has now developed or sells a range of green products; hotels and hospitals are working on ensuring that they save water, paper, energy and the likes; while cleaning consultants harp on about the need for effective dosing and dilution. But, is this all there is to cleaning responsibly, keeping in mind health, safety and the environment? Or is there more? Are we cleaning needlessly, are we over consuming chemicals, oversanitising environments that do not require as much sanitisation? As a cleaning industry – an industry that is responsible for the health and consequently the lives of human beings and animals – are we being responsible enough?

Adrienne Doolan, CEO, Green Touches Ecological Services UAE

Are we cleaning needlessly, ineffectively and without responsibility? The resounding answer to that, in my opinion, is Yes! All around us we see cleaning staff in malls, hospitals, restaurants and schools, usually using toxic chemicals, which according to scientific research, is causing allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and even cancer. We have to move away from traditional cleaning methods and non-effective ways of cleaning to keep pace with the 21st century clean technology that our era affords us.Our knowledge-sharing and scientific research, along with more up-to-date access to information, allows the general public to learn that we are overcleaning – killing a lot of our good bacteria along with using products that are becoming detrimental to our health and the environment.

In the late 19th century, German physician Robert Koch discovered that certain bacteria caused specific diseases; this was an important discovery, and our sanitation and cleanliness dramatically improved. But, do we need to kill “99.9% of bacteria?” No. Too much cleaning is bad for us. We live in an age of cleanliness, with the promise of household cleaners and hand soaps killing 99.9% of germs and bacteria. Extensive research now shows that killing 99.9% of bacteria is not only attacking the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria necessary for strengthening our immune system let alone the negative effect this has on our eco system. We are not protecting ourselves by over cleaning; we are causing the breakdown of our own eco-system and the efficacy of antibiotics to kill in the event of a pandemic.

We are slowly moving away from the multi-decade focus on killing all bacteria via soaps, detergents and hand sanitizers, to a new understanding as to how our complex human bodies work. We are, as humans, built up of microbial matter and cells. We have over 100 trillion microbes in and on our bodies, and we now have the knowledge to challenge the previously held notion of good and bad bacteria. We need to create a balance with the microbial world (microbial to human cells for the average man of 1.3:1).

Now, without getting too scientific here, what I am really trying to say is that we need a major shift in our thinking and for the sake of our good health and that of our children let them ‘play in the dirt’, to enable their immune systems to develop with the right amount of bacteria.

While over-washing with regular soap is bad enough, many of us lather up daily with foaming and antibacterial soaps and scrubs, and clean our homes with antibacterial cleaning products. The principal ingredient in these products is a chemical known as triclosan, which was originally introduced as a pesticide in the 1960s, and is still used in pesticide applications today. Along with its pesticide function, triclosan appears in about 75% of all soaps, toothpastes and deodorants sold in the US and worldwide. The dangers of this chemical are becoming more widely known; it is linked to estrogen disruption, has been associated with encouraging an earlier onset of puberty, and can accumulate in fat tissues. It has been found in human blood, breast milk and urine samples. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; the FDA has now mandated all companies in the USA to remove this chemical by September 2017.

Another foaming agent found in commercial products is SLS (Sodium Laureth Sufate); it contains ingredients that can cause the following: Irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, biochemical or cellular changes and possible mutations and cancer. I strongly believe that larger corporations have to take responsibility for the ingredients used in chemical products both for commercial and personal use.

It’s not so much about how often we should clean, but more importantly to educate people how to clean effectively in order to achieve the balance for our eco system. Many are unaware of the fact that excessive chemical products used in cleaning have a detrimental effect on our health and our water systems, coupled with the fact that our waste water treatment plants are not built or able to purify this kind of pollution. Every single chemical used eventually ends up in the water that surrounds us, our ground, lakes, rivers and seas and thereby harming the environment.

We need to clean effectively and efficiently while paying due attention to health and the environment using new clean technology which achieves the balance for supporting our eco system. A plant will thrive with adequate water, overwatering will kill it.