Throughout the country, workers involved in dry cleaning, carpet cleaning, furniture and upholstery cleaning, and general maintenance crew cleaning are routinely handling toxic chemicals, endangered on a daily basis, and risk later developing serious health complications including cancer.
Benzene is one widely used chemical in a number of industries and products, although many workers remain unaware of the toxic danger of this substance, or are unaware that their cleaning products contain Benzene. Dry Cleaners and carpet cleaners who work in close proximity to benzene or benzene-containing products can be put at serious exposure risk.
Exposure to floor, dry cleaning and carpet cleaning products containing benzene and other toxins may cause life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and lymphomas. Dry cleaning cancer cases in Ohio are more common than previously thought.
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Toxic Carpet Cleaners & Dry Cleaning Cancer
The most common Benzene exposure pathway is inhalation, but the toxin can also enter the body through skin absorption via cleaning products. Once in the bloodstream, benzene affects the bone marrow and blood forming cells, white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Benzene is associated with the following types of occupational dry cleaning cancer:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researchers warn that carpet and certain fabrics provide a reservoir for chemicals adsorbed to dust, including pesticides, lead, heavy metals, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.
One study commissioned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene emitted from many carpet products in the country.
Dry Cleaning & Carpet Cleaning Toxins
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of possible damage to liver and kidney when using certain dry cleaning and carpet cleaning products. Some commonly used products contain perchloroethylene, a popular dry cleaning cancer causing chemical linked to nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
Naphthalene, a solvent used to dissolve dirt accumulated in carpets, is considered dangerous to the human central nervous system and is potentially carcinogenic. Some of the solvents used for carpet cleaning contain Butyloxy ethanol, potentially causing damage to the liver, central nervous system and kidneys. Other toxins may include:
- Butyloxy ethanol
- Diethylene glycol
Commercial Cleaning Hazards
Hundreds of commercial cleaning products used in many capacities in almost all of American institutions and households may contain harmful toxins like Benzene, Formaldehyde and Toluene—known cancer-causing agents that may lead to Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Workplaces like schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and manufacturing plants commonly use strong cleaning chemicals. Maintenance crew, janitors and housekeepers who handle these products on a daily basis could be at particular risk for developing health issues like asthma, other respiratory illnesses and dry cleaning cancer. Some common products that may contain dangerous chemicals include:
- Carpet cleaners
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has acknowledged the health dangers of commercial carpet cleaning, and with the OSHA has provided some safety guidelines to help protect American workers from toxic chemical exposure and certain cancer risks. Both agencies recommend employers protect their workers by considering the following:
- Using non-benzene-based cleaning products
- Workplace Ventilation Risks
- Using chemical-free cleaning systems
- Providing safety equipment like gloves, masks and respirators
- Properly training workers and monitoring the cleaning products in use