Traditional cleaning products contain volatile components with toxic properties. Office workers with long-term exposure to these substances show decreased performance at best. Many of them develop lung disease.
Although we are often unaware of the many toxins and pollutants left by cleaning products, these can be found on office furniture, floors, windows, kitchenettes and bathrooms.
Some cleaning procedures, paradoxically, may make things worse (e.g., inexpert carpet cleaning):
We learned of a case where a client hired a company to clean a large rug. After several days of cleaning, the company brought it back on a Friday. More interested in the coming weekend, no employee wanted to take care of the rug, so they left it, wrapped in nylon in a corner. The following week, the client found the rug all whitish coated. The cleaning company had used a chemical and failed to adequately air the carpet after using a chemical. The nylon wrapping retained moisture and promoted the proliferation of fungi.
A typical janitor uses 6 gallons of hazardous chemicals per year and about 18 gallons of other substances.
Some of these products, allegedly beneficial to human health, have never been tested and their environmental impact remains unknown.
Responsible office cleaning companies control their employees and make sure they mix cleaning compounds in the proper proportion. When detergents, antimicrobial preparations and cleaning solution are not adequately prepared, they may cause more problems than they help fight. Microbes that survive weak bactericidal solutions generate resistant strains.
Moreover, good janitorial services train their employees in post-cleaning procedures. For example, they teach janitors how to dispose of hazardous chemicals—such as petroleum derivatives which contaminate water sources— without using the drainage system or trash cans.
Bad janitorial services contribute to indoor pollution.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that air pollution in a typical office may climb as high as one hundred times as much as the pollution level outdoors. Besides shaking dust, poorly trained cleaning staff spreads dust mites, mold, dander and bacteria.
Meanwhile, a UK government organization found that air pollution in the office caused a 9% decrease in productivity and about 16 hours of lost work per month per employee.
Most employees, however, are unaware of what causes their wheezing, bronchitis, skin disorders, dry eyes, headaches and bad mood.
For example, one of the 6 most common air pollutants is ozone. Did you know that high-voltage equipment in the office produces ozone? Or did you know that tiny particles of self-copying paper were found guilty of eye and respiratory problems?
Fortunately, as researchers perform more studies and identify unsuspected pollutants and as more healthy cleaning agents reach the market, we improve our understanding of the impact of cleaning procedures.
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