Sanitation Chemical Hazards & Safety 101 in a Massage Therapy Practice, Spa or Salon

Sanitation Chemical Hazards & Safety 101 in a Massage Therapy Practice, Spa or Salon

By: Selena Belisle, Owner/Instructor CE Institute LLC, Miami FL

Most massage therapy, spa or salon workplaces share a large amount of personal interaction which will require regular sanitation effort.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative health side-effects when chemical agents are used.  As such, this BLOG is to provide some basic information to help service providers and owners make the best decisions they can to keep their workspace healthy and clean:

Common Cleaner Chemicals and Known Side-effects

  • Ammonia & bleach (sodium hypochlorite) cause asthma in workers who breathe too much at work. It can trigger asthma attacks in people who already have asthma. It can also irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (also known as QUATs, QACs, or QATs) are not volatile compounds, but using them as sprays can cause nose and throat irritation. Benzalkonium chloride is a severe eye irritant and causes and triggers asthma. Exposures to QUATs may cause allergic skin reactions. Use of QUATs has been associated with the growth of bacteria that are resistant to disinfection. Sometimes this resistance also transfers to antibiotics. In laboratory studies, QUATs were found to damage genetic material (genes).
  • Triclosan is a suspected endocrine disruptor and may lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Phthalates are used in fragrances that are found in air fresheners and cleaning and sanitizing products. They are endocrine disruptors. Research indicates that phthalates increase the risk of allergies and asthma and can affect children's neurodevelopment and thyroid function. Studies show links between phthalates in mothers to abnormal genital development in boys. Phthalates have been found in human urine, blood, semen, amniotic fluid, and breast milk.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that vaporize at room temperature. Many VOCs that are released by cleaning supplies have been linked to chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, allergic reactions, and headaches.
    • Fragrances are mixtures of many chemicals, including VOCs. They can contain up to 3,000 separate ingredients. There is no requirement that fragrance ingredients be listed on the product label. Many of these chemicals:
      • can trigger asthma and allergies;
      • may be hazardous to humans.
    • Terpenes are chemicals found in pine, lemon, and orange oils that are used in many cleaning and disinfecting products as well as in fragrances. Terpenes react with ozone, especially on hot smoggy days, forming very small particles like those found in smog and haze that can irritate the lungs and may cause other health problems.
    • Formaldehyde, which:
      • causes cancer,
      • is a sensitizer that is linked to asthma and allergic reactions,
      • has damaged genes in lab tests,
      • is a central nervous system depressant (slows down brain activity),
      • may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep.

Each year about 6 out of every 100 professional custodians are injured by the chemicals they use to clean, sanitize, and disinfect. Burns to the eyes and skin are the most common injuries, followed closely by breathing toxic mists or vapors. Many of these injuries are due to improper use of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products. For example, many chemicals used for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting come in a concentrated form. To be used, they have to be correctly diluted with water:

  • When diluting concentrated products unsafely, the user increases their exposure to the health hazards of the product. Humans are exposed by breathing the fumes of the concentrated product into the lungs or absorbing the liquid through the skin.
  • If the wrong chemicals are mixed together, they can react to form a toxic gas and the health effects can be much worse. For example, when bleach is mixed with ammonia or quaternary ammonium compounds (found in some disinfectants), chloramine gas is created, which is highly toxic.
  • If a chemical is too concentrated (the user doesn’t add the amount of water indicated on the product label), then the health effects of using that product are increased. They are increased for the person who is using the product. They are also increased for the people who occupy the indoor space where it is used.
  • It is important to follow dilution instructions carefully to avoid harm to the person doing the diluting, as well as to the others in the same work areas. Personal protective equipment such as gloves and goggle, when indicated on the product label, should be worn while working with concentrated chemicals. Better yet, avoid using products that require personal protective equipment!

Because there have been so many cleaning solutions and sanitary products that have caused occupational injury, the EPA has formed a list of Safer Choice Products which can be viewed by clicking HERE .

We hope this information helps readers understand some of the hazards that can happen at work with sanitation efforts and using chemicals.  To learn more about massage therapy, spa and salon sanitation, please click HERE.

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