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Ask Dr. Nandi: Why parents should be cautious when using household disinfectants

Posted: 1:04 PM, Feb 11, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-11 13:04:37-05

High flu activity may have you disinfecting your home more than usual. But while you’re killing off germs, you might also be harming your health.

Disinfectants can contain EPA-registered pesticides. Now to be called a disinfectant, manufacturers have to prove that their product works and can actually kill certain bacteria on surfaces.

So many products will contain bleach or potent chemicals called “Quats”. Quats stands for quaternary ammonium compounds.

Now there are different types which mean there are different names. But most often you’ll see the words “benzyl ammonium chloride” on the label.

Product fumes can hang in the air for up to 20 minutes and cause respiratory irritation. And if you have asthma, exposure to bleach can trigger it or make it worse.

Research has also found that bleach can also cause new asthma if you’re exposed over long periods of time.

As for Quats, they may also contribute to asthma. But the real concern here is for children. Surprisingly, they can actually breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults. Which means that they can breathe in more of these chemicals making their exposure higher.

Now, if you have school-age children like myself, then you’ve likely donated disinfecting wipes to your kid’s classroom. This sounds like a great way to kill germs, but it’s also concerning if you don’t know who is actually handling these chemically-drenched wipes.

Scrubbing with soap and water does the trick when it comes to general cleaning. You typically don’t need to disinfect unless you’re actually trying to stop the spread of infection.

In that case, disinfecting products containing hydrogen peroxide might be best. As they’re linked with fewer health effects than bleach or quats.

Just be sure to keep all disinfectants away from kids, and keep them out of the room when you’re cleaning.

As for school, you can reach out to your child’s teacher to makes sure these products are of reach and that children are not handling them.