Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hygienic Floors at What Expense?

Chemicals in the commercial production of B’org food abound.  However, this article focuses on a floor cleaner that is commonly used in professional kitchens.  In order to keep the bacteria at bay, employees are made to clean the floor with chemicals that presumably kill unwanted bacteria and such.  But do they?  And why does the floor need to be antiseptic?  I’m sure few people drop food on the floor and put it in food to be served.  Not only that, the chemicals in these products are arguably more harmful to human health than the life forms normally found on kitchen floors.  But the main point is that people who are involved in food preparation are exposing themselves to toxic chemicals for no real purpose.

I recently came across Lemon Floor Gel which is marketed as an antiseptic floor cleaner.  It states on the Safety Data Sheet that it is not regarded as a health or environment hazard under current legislation.  This may suffice to make some people feel safe in using the product.  But on the sheet, it also says that it is harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.  In fact, it further states that there is a risk of serious damage to eyes and is irritating to the respiratory system.  If that doesn’t amount to a health hazard, I can’t image what does!!!

This floor gel contains Limonene and it’s oxidation products are skin irritants.

It is recommended that eye protection should be considered where there is a risk of splashing.  Furthermore, rubber gloves and barrier cream are recommended when using any chemical.  I doubt this advice or the eye protection are followed much due to the time limitations of most workers.

It is stable under normal temperature conditions.  I wonder what this means.  What’s normal in a kitchen?

Another chemical in this floor cleaner is 2-aminoethanol and the hazards of this are clearly set out on Toxnet.  Here is some information from this source with further sources for evidence for those who need such proof (and I quote):

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS/ Symptoms associated with /CNS depression/ of the ethanolamines /in humans/ include increased blood pressure, diuresis, salivation, and pupillary dilation. Large doses produce sedation, coma, and death following depression of blood pressure and cardiac collapse. /Ethanolamines/
[Snyder, R. (ed.). Ethyl Browning's Toxicity and Metabolism of Industrial Solvents. 2nd ed. Volume II: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Solvents. Amsterdam-New York-Oxford: Elsevier, 1990., p. 428] **PEER REVIEWED**

/SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS/ MEA inhalation by humans has been reported to cause immediate allergic responses of dyspnea and asthma and clinical symptoms of acute liver damage and chronic hepatitis.
[Christian M, ed; J American College of Toxicology 2 (7): 183-226 (1983)] **PEER REVIEWED**

OTHER TOXICITY INFORMATION/ Corrosive. Causes severe eye and skin burns. May be harmful if absorbed through skin or inhaled. Irritating to skin, eyes, respiratory system.
[Fire Protection Guide to Hazardous Materials. 13 ed. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2002., p. 49-70] **PEER REVIEWED**

Skin, Eye and Respiratory Irritations:
Irritating to skin, eyes, respiratory system.
[Fire Protection Guide to Hazardous Materials. 13 ed. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2002., p. 49-70] **PEER REVIEWED**

Probable Routes of Human Exposure:
NIOSH (NOES Survey 1981-1983) has statistically estimated that 1,163,087 workers (328,648 of these are female) are potentially exposed to 2-aminoethanol in the US(1). Occupational exposure to 2-aminoethanol may occur through inhalation and dermal contact with this compound at workplaces where 2-aminoethanol is produced or used(SRC). The highest level of 2-aminoethanol in the cabin atmosphere of a nuclear-powered submarines was <1 ppm(2). 2-Aminoethanol is present in bulk machining fluids used in the automotive parts manufacturing industry at 2-11% by weight(3). The compound was detected in one of five samples (0.10 ppm) in an aircraft maintenance degreasing facility(4). Use data indicate that the general population may be exposed to 2-aminoethanol via ingestion and dermal contact with this compound and other consumer products containing 2-aminoethanol(SRC).
[(1) NIOSH; International Safety Cards. 2-Aminoethanol. 141-43-5. Available at http// as of Mar 24, 2006. (2) Schaefer KE; Arch Environ Health 9: 230-31 (1964) (3) Kenyon EM et al; Appl Occup Environ Hyg 8: 655-61 (1993) (4) Tharr D; Appl Occup Environ Hyg 9: 303-11 (1994)] **PEER REVIEWED**

In conclusion, there is more than meets the eye to working in the kitchen nowadays.  This is an example of how working in food preparation, something that should be chemical free, can actually be an extremely toxic job.  I wonder what it would take to make this health and environmental hazard recognised as such under current legislation in the UK?  How many people have to have these side effects before it is recognised?  And why are we being subjected to this hazard?  Beats me, except that someone is making money out of it.

So next time you go to a hospital, restaurant, care home, cafe, school cafeteria or other place where food is prepared and served, I hope you miss the cleaning up time because you too would be subjected to breathing in these toxic fumes.

Meanwhile, if you can't get out of using such a floor cleaner, I would suggest using extreme care and warm to cold water to limit the amount of fumes when using this product.  However, I would argue that floors do not need to be disinfected and a clean mop with hot water and a little elbow grease is all that is needed to keep the floors clean (except maybe where it's greasy).