Asthma and cleaning products at work

If you work with or around cleaning products and are having breathing problems, read this information. Also available in Portuguese and Spanish.

In case of an emergency, contact the National Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

Protect yourself: make cleaning safer

NEVER mix cleaning products.

NEVER use a cleaner at full strength when the instructions say to dilute it.

ALWAYS:

  • Store products in their original containers.
  • Leave windows and doors open if possible, or use a fan to circulate air, especially when cleaning in small or closed spaces. 
  • Try to avoid using spray products and aerosols.  Instead of spraying, wet a rag to wipe on the surface.
  • Use less toxic cleaners whenever possible.
  • Use personal protective equipment:
    • Wear goggles and/or gloves to prevent eye and skin contact with hazardous chemicals.
    • Know that dust masks will NOT prevent these chemicals from entering your lungs.
  • Learn more:
    • Read warning labels on the products you use.
    • Read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The MSDS tells you the ingredients in the product, and the effects those ingredients have on your health. Your employer should have a copy.

Can working with cleaning products cause asthma?

YES. Some cleaning products contain chemicals that can cause asthma. If you already have breathing problems, cleaning products can make them worse.

Some people who work with cleaning products, or work in areas where cleaners are used, can get breathing problems from them. It could also happen because of a spill or because cleaning products were mixed together.

Who is exposed to cleaning products?

You could be exposed to cleaning products if you use them as part of your job, or if you work in areas where cleaning products are used.

Types of cleaners that can cause breathing problems:

  • Disinfectants (such as bleach)
  • Floor wax strippers
  • Toilet cleaners

Some workers who may be at risk:

  • Janitors
  • Housekeepers
  • Nurses or nurses aides
  • Hotel maintenance staff
  • Restaurant workers
  • Teachers, especially elementary
  • Office workers

What should I do if I think I might have asthma?

If you work with or around cleaning products and experience ANY of the asthma symptoms listed, talk to your doctor.

Write down the names of the products you work with to show your doctor, and tell your doctor when your symptoms occur.

Work-related asthma can be serious and make you very sick. If something you work around is causing your asthma, there may be a safer product to use. Your doctor can give you medicine to treat your asthma.

Additional Resources for What should I do if I think I might have asthma?

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