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Cleaning products affect crew, not just the planet

Ecoworks Marine's Fraser Johnston explains how ingredients in regular cleaning products are harmful to crew…

Cleaning and cleaning products are a major part of everyday life, and this is truer than ever post COVID-19 when cleaning requirements to stay safe will be even more vigorous. However, shocking research that studied more than 6,000 people over a 20 year period indicated that bleach-based cleaning products can be as damaging to the lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.

Cleaning on board is only going to increase in the new post COVID-19 world, especially on charter yachts. We are already aware that cleaning tasks are often associated with exposure to numerous chemical agents, with potential harmful effects to the respiratory system and, worryingly, individuals can be exposed in several different locations throughout the day. This means that crewmembers regularly cleaning boats, accommodation and kit using traditional cleaning products are in danger of encountering a range of health problems.

Understanding product labels, Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) or Marine Safety Data Sheets and what the key raw materials are within a product is key to improving the understanding the products you and your team are using, allowing you to better avoid some of the most common, yet damaging, ingredients. 

We have a watch list of raw materials that should avoided, and below are some of the likely culprits that are used and should be watched out for. The below is just a selection of the more common ingredients that can be harmful in regular cleaning products – unfortunately there are more:

• 2-Butoxyethanol: A common ingredient in kitchen, window, and multipurpose cleaners that can interfere with the health of your red blood cells;
• Ammonia: Found in glass and bathroom cleaners, ammonia can be very irritating to the eyes, skin, throat, and lungs;
• Chlorine Bleach: A potent antimicrobial and respiratory irritant, bleach is a major ingredient in mildew removers, toilet bowl cleaners, and scouring powders;
• Sodium Hydroxide: A known mucous membrane irritant, this is used in many oven cleaners and drain openers;
• Fragrance: Although the term ‘fragrance’ sounds innocent enough, it can refer to any one of thousands of chemicals linked to skin, kidney, respiratory, and cellular issues;
• Parabens: These antimicrobial, chemical preservatives are associated with negative effects in breasts, hormones, and reproductive areas;
• Phthalates: Commonly found in a host of cleaning products including dish soaps, detergents, and shampoo, phthalates have been shown to negatively impact respiratory health and reproductive function, as well as cause DNA damage;
• Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS): Found in antibacterial cleaners, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. Several studies identify QUATS as the cause of respiratory issues in cleaning workers;
• Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Don’t let the word ‘organic’ fool you! Inhaling these gases, which are frequently used in products including household cleaners, disinfectants and air fresheners, can cause eye, liver, nervous system, respiratory tract, and skin troubles—as well as GI discomfort and challenges with equilibrium.

The expectations of yacht owners to keep yachts looking their best and the requirements for charter vessels and others to be deep cleaned between guest trips are important to recognise and respond to. Certain cleaning products on the market, such as Ecoworks Marine’s range of interior, exterior and engineering products, can meet all these expectations without the negative impacts on the environment and users associated with traditional cleaning products.

Using natural ingredients with specialised properties that mean they are able to treat dirt and grime at the source – often in hard to reach places that traditional cleaning can’t. Unlike traditional cleaning products, which often simply displace dirt or bacteria, biotech-based products completely break it down. This in turn helps remove bad odours.

So, a move to more user- and environmentally-friendly cleaning products can easily be justified by the potential to increase cleanliness while saving money, while also reducing the risk to cleaning staff and the environment.

Profile links

Ecoworks Marine Preserve The Living Seas Ltd

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Cleaning products affect crew, not just the planet

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