Hazardous Cleaning Chemicals in the Bathroom

Think about the following as you read: If you were using these types of chemicals in an industrial workplace, what precautions would OSHA require? Gloves? Goggles? Respirator? Do you use these when you clean the bathroom?  Do you clean with these around children?

Toilet Bowl Cleaners: One of the most dangerous cleaning products, toilet bowl cleaners can contain chlorine and hydrochloric acid. Harmful just from inhalation. Toilet Bowl Cleaners accounted for 10,461 poison exposures in 2005. (Source: Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poisoning and Exposure Database) (2005).

Hydrochloride/ Hydrochloric Acid (HCl): Contained in some toilet bowl cleaners, HCl can cause severe damage to skin and eyes. Some people exposed to HCl may develop an inflammatory reaction called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), a type of asthma caused by some irritating or corrosive substances. Swallowing HCl causes severe corrosive injury to the lips, mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. (Sources: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2007). Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents. Volume III, Medica)

Scouring Powders: Many traditional scouring cleansers, like AJAX powder, contain crystalline silica, an eye, skin, and lung irritant, classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Some scouring cleaners may contain sodium hydroxide or bleach that can irritate mucous membranes and cause liver and kidney damage.

Limescale removers: Many limescale removers contain sulfamic acid, which is toxic to lungs and mucous membranes. Direct skin contact with sulfamic acid is corrosive and causes irritation, dryness or burning. Eye contact can result in corneal damage or blindness. Inhalation of sulfamic acid will produce irritation to gastro-intestinal or respiratory tract with burning, sneezing or coughing. Severe over exposure of sulfamic acid can produce lung damage, choking, unconsciousness or death.

A person who spends 15 minutes cleaning scale off shower walls could inhale three times the “acute one-hour exposure limit” for glycol-ether containing products set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Sources: News-Medical.Net; University of California at Berkeley.

For safe alternative products and to make the bathroom cleaning job easier, see The Self Cleaning Bathroom.

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If you have a poison emergency or a question about poisons and you’re in the United States, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222

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