Disinfectants may affect your health in ways you might not expect. It seems like everyone is coming down with a cold or the flu this season, which many have you disinfecting your home more than usual. So, while you’re working hard to kill unwanted germs, you may also be harming your health. This is because of what manufacturers have to put in their products for them to be considered ‘disinfectants’. In order to prove products can kill certain bacteria on surfaces, many products contain bleach or something called “Quats.” Quats stands for “quaternary ammonium compounds” and different kinds do different things. They are often labeled as “benzyl ammonium chloride” and can negatively impact your health. Disinfectants can also contain EPA-registered pesticides.

Inhaling Disinfectants

Quats can contribute to asthma. When you spray a product in your home, the fumes from that product can linger in the air for up to 20 minutes. This can cause respiratory irritation, which can aggravate those with asthma. Furthermore, exposure to bleach can bring on an asthma attack or exacerbate the condition. But, even if you don’t have asthma, research shows exposure to bleach over long periods of time can cause someone to develop asthma. This is bad news for adults, but it’s even more concerning for children. Their exposure to these chemicals can actually be higher than adults because they breathe in more air per pound of body weight. As a parent with school-aged children, I’ve seen disinfecting wipes in my kid’s classroom. So, make sure you know what’s in these chemically-drenched wipes. It may sound like a great way to kill germs, but it could also be exposing them to harmful chemicals. 

Safely Disinfect at Home and School

When it comes to general cleaning, good old soap and water do the trick. You don’t need to use additional disinfecting agents unless you’re actively trying to stop the spread of infection. When that is the case, choose disinfecting products that contain hydrogen peroxide. This may be the best option since they’re linked with fewer health effects than bleach or quats. As with all chemicals, keep them out of the hands of children, and it’s best to keep them out of the room you’re cleaning. As for the school, you can contact your child’s teacher to ensure disinfecting agents are out of reach so the children are not handling them.