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Report: Too Clean May Be Hazardous For Your Health

November 19, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new report links the overuse of disinfectant chemicals with such chronic illnesses as asthma, hormone imbalances and immune system problems, as well as infertility and respiratory problems. The report, "Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous to Our Health," cites more than 40 peer-reviewed reports and scientific studies about the health consequences of overusing chemicals found in household disinfectants.

Erica Forrest, environmental health coordinator for Children's Mercy Hospital, says these harsh chemicals, especially those in aerosol and spray form, can trigger asthma attacks. She recommends using disinfectants you can pour onto a surface or cloth to minimize airborne irritants.

"If you're going to use those products, use them sparingly and then open windows, turn on fans, have some air circulation, and definitely do not clean with children present in the room."

The study also found two chemicals commonly used in antibacterial soap in the bodies of nearly 75 percent of people tested. Because children and elderly often spend more time inside the home, Forrest says they are the most susceptible to potential asthma attack triggers, which can be fatal.

"We want to do all we can to prevent them from ever having an asthma episode. One of the most important things you can do is to identify what their triggers are and to keep them away from triggers as much as possible."

Research highlights ammonia and ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach and tricolsan as examples of common disinfectant ingredients linked to irritation, cancers, premature puberty, reproductive abnormalities and respiratory issues. Cleaning industry companies say their products are safe and effective when used as directed.

The full report is online at www.womenandenvironment.org.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO