By Ruben Rives
September 15th, 2014
According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and author of The China Study:
Proof in science is elusive. Even more than in the “core" sciences of biology, chemistry and physics, establishing absolute proof in medicine and health is nearly impossible. The primary objective of research investigation is to determine only what is likely to be true. This is because research into health is inherently statistical. When you throw a ball in the air, will it come down? Yes, every time. That's physics. If you smoke four packs a day, will you get lung cancer? The answer is maybe. We know that your odds of getting lung cancer are much higher than if you didn't smoke, and we can tell you what those odds (statistics) are, but we can't know with certainty whether you as an individual will get lung cancer.
Likewise, in cleaning science research, connecting cleaning and health is not a simple, linear or straightforward affair, because people live and work in many different ways, have different genetic makeups, habits, exposures, and biochemical profiles.
There are also major time, money and other resource constraints that prevent arriving at statistically important health conclusions related to either a “Clean for Health” or “Renewable Cleaning” model.
Even with unlimited research resources, lifestyle choices, indoor environments, pre-existing health factors, cleaning practices, and other variables interact in amazingly complex ways making solid clean-for-health-type conclusions difficult if not impossible to reach.
In short, proof that any single cleaning factor is either healthy or unhealthy is nearly impossible to establish (the exceptions, such as that mixing bleach and ammonia is unhealthy, are obvious).
In research, we can observe groups of people and record our findings, measure differences and try to establish patterns. For example, you can begin to show that better vacuum filters and regular vacuuming with a well-maintained vacuum seem to produce a reliable pattern of lower airborne dust levels and perhaps reduce the likelihood that the “cleaning” will contribute to certain allergic or asthmatic reactions.
However, since it is impossible to control the variables in most facility environments, you cannot say with certainty that your cleaning is healthy, or conversely, unhealthy.
That does not mean that we should stop looking at practice patterns from which we can draw common sense conclusions about cleaning and health.
The axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies, and no sane person would argue against the wisdom of reducing the use of petrochemicals where less-toxic interventions can be effectively used (e.g., water and microfiber, steam vapor from tap water, etc. instead of heavily fragranced, high VOC chemistries.)
More benign or “Renewable” forms of effective cleaning make sense and follow the “Precautionary Principle” (see sidebar, “The Precautionary Principle and Cleaning”).
Why take the chance? Remember that in cleaning: Less is More. Translation:
“Less unneeded chemicals = More health and safety"
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