SASKATOON -- A researcher from the University of Saskatchewan has found bleach-alternative disinfectants are doing more than just cleaning surfaces.

According to the study, hydrogen peroxide-based cleaning products can pollute the air and have the potential to create respiratory issues.

Tara Kahan, a U of S chemistry researcher, conducted the study inside a chamber, simulating a room, at New York’s Syracuse University.

“So when you mop floors or wipe down tables, you’re putting the cleaning solution on the surface, but some of it gets into the air,” the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Analytical Chemistry said. 

Kahan and her team spent hours cleaning surfaces in the room-simulator using hydrogen peroxide cleaning products from a store. The researchers used computers to measure the chemistry of the air.

“After cleaning even a fairly small area of the floor, we saw these huge spikes of hydrogen peroxide — not so high that it exceeds what we call ‘the exposure limits’ set out by different regulatory bodies, but about half or three-quarters of that, so actually, quite high,” Kahan told CTV News.

“Nobody’s ever done this [type of study] before. Whatever we saw would be new and interesting, but the levels were high enough that we were quite surprised.”

Kahan tested the air at head height, but said levels would be higher closer to the surface being cleaned. 

She said the hydrogen peroxide levels had the potential to be “dangerous” with less ventilation and a more concentrated cleaning solution. 

Kahan said the real risk is for janitors or house cleaners. 

“Even though we did find these high levels, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be bad to use now and then,” she said. 

“If you’re a house cleaner or janitor, for example, that might be something to really worry about. But if you’re just using it once a week, or a short period of time, that might be ok.” 

Kahan and the team is in the process of repeating the testing done in Syracuse in Saskatoon homes — to determine whether the outcomes would re-occur in a real-world environment. 

Kahan said bleach-based cleaning products are “much worse” than hydrogen peroxide products.

She said the research isn’t meant to scare people out of cleaning, but rather find what’s going into the air and learn about the health risks. 

“The more information we have, the better equipped we’ll be to understand what are good and hopefully simple things we can do to minimize any risks,” Kahan said.