I'm a germ expert – here's why you've been cleaning your house ALL wrong

BETWEEN having a good old spring clean and our Covid-related reliance on hand sanitiser, cleanliness is a top priority for many of us.

But is there such a thing as keeping things too clean?

Scientists in Norway seem to think so. A 20-year study revealed a clear link between toxic cleaning product use and the risk of developing lung troubles. 

The researchers found people who worked as professional cleaners using spray cleaning products incurred as much lung damage as someone smoking 20 cigarettes a day. 

It’s thought this is down to the chemicals in cleaning products aggravating mucus membranes in the airways.

CLEAN UP

As important as it is to have a good scrub, Professor Paul Morgan, Director of Systems Immunity at Cardiff University suggests taking a more measured approach to cleaning. 

“Our immune system needs to ‘learn’ to respond to germs early in life,” he says. 

“Exposure to everyday germs, house dust and pollen that activate the immune system, educate it to respond appropriately to those foreign things while not reacting to itself. 

“When this fails it leaves the individual at increased risk in later life of allergies and other diseases caused by a misfiring of the immune system. 

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“Research has shown that children who grow up on farms do better at educating their immune systems than those growing up in squeaky-clean apartments with no messy pets, for example.” 

TOXIC TRADING

While ditching cleaning products entirely is impossible – especially when we’re still dealing with Covid – we are starting to wise up to healthier alternatives, to offset our daily exposure.

It’s known as toxic trading, which focuses on balancing the amount of toxic chemicals we come into contact with. 

For example, while we may use bleach to clean the bathroom, we might opt for natural skincare or an organic diet to give our health a break in another area. 

Sustainable lifestyle brand Content Beauty has noticed this shift. 

They reported a 900% sale increase in organic bedding over lockdown. 

“Our customers are shopping based on an ethos that matches their overriding lifestyle choices,” founder Imelda Burke explains.

“We are finding people are increasingly concerned with the toxin load on the planet alongside their bodies.” 

Natural cleaning product company, Bide have a big focus on wellbeing.

Founder Amelia Gammon says: “Our consumers tell us they're confused by what is or isn’t toxic and want to worry a little less, which is important for cleaning products as these are used throughout the home at high frequency."

Since the pandemic began, natural cleaning product sales saw a 106% increase and the beauty industry has seen a significant shift in 'clean' skincare with a big focus on ingredient transparency and eco standards. 

It's not uncommon to see toxic ingredients such as polyethylene (a melted down plastic) in lipsticks, triclosan (a synthetic antibacterial linked to some cancers) in deodorant and methylisothiazolinone (a preservative linked to dermatitis) in shampoos. 

3 WAYS TO DECREASE YOUR TOXIC LOAD

  1. Create a base

If you're finding it hard to part with your synthetic beauty products, add a layer of natural lip balm before applying your lipstick to act as a barrier.

2. Start small 

You don't have to replace everything right away. Start with the products that omit the most toxins that your skin comes into contact with, such as deodorant, shampoo and everyday surface cleaner. 

3. Do your research 

Don't let long words scare you –  some acids and chemical-sounding ingredients are present in natural skincare that aren't harmful so double check on EWG's Skin Deep database to see if they're safe.

As the chemical absorption rate on our scalp is up to four times greater than the absorption rate on our forearms, lathering up can increase our body's toxic load significantly. 

Natural deodorant has seen a surge in interest among people conscious of what they're applying to the vulnerable under-arm area. 

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare's (https://www.aureliaskincare.com) aluminium-free Botanical Cream Deodorant has gained cult status since its launch in 2016.

“We found more people willing to try a natural deodorant when they were in the comfort of their own homes, and not going back to their old synthetic product,” says Antonia Knox, Brand Expert and Spokesperson for Aurelia Probiotic Skincare.

OVER THE THRESHOLD 

But surely our bodies are equipped to deal with environmental aggressors to some degree? 

“Everything is a chemical, including water,” Imelda explains. 

“Toxicity is about dosage. While nothing sold within the UK and EU should contain 'toxins' as they are rigorously tested, what people are concerned with is an accumulative effect of certain ingredients over a lifetime of use. 

“Yes, although the primary function of the liver is to detox, in the case of talc (and other ingredients) this function may be bypassed depending on where the item is used on the body. 

“The liver's main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. 

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“In the case of talc used on intimate areas for example – and potentially any ingredients that can be absorbed by the skin – they are likely not going through the digestive tract therefore may go undetected.”

Although Professor Morgan reassures us that “exposure to household chemicals would have to be massive and sustained to significantly impact,” you can still take steps to reduce your exposure to toxins. 

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