The Safe and Just Cleaners Study is a community-based participatory research partnership funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The study is collecting data on domestic cleaners’ chemical exposures and other working conditions to develop safer cleaning approaches to reduce exposure for cleaners and their clients.
The Toll of Household Cleaning: Economic and Health Precarity of Immagrant Latinx Cleaners in New York
The Safe and Just Cleaners study collected survey data from 402 immigrant Latinx household cleaners in NYC and Westchester between June 2019 and February 2020.
Our survey data demonstrate that most of our study participants had income levels that placed their families below the federal poverty level. Furthermore, despite working as household cleaners for an average of 16 years, the workers in our study commonly face violations of their labor and human rights including suffering discrimination, verbal abuse, wage theft and a lack of paid sick leave. Working part-time and often without any formal contractual agreement also contributes to their vulnerability to these abuses. Household cleaners surveyed use many cleaning products that contain chemicals that are potentially damaging to their health. Moreover, the demands they face to use more toxic cleaning products combined with their inability to control which products are used may further detract from their overall health and well-being.
Household cleaners’ situations have become even more urgent since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our study findings provide support for two proposed NY State initiatives: #FundExcludedWorkers and #Coverage4All. All workers deserve to put food on the table, pay their rent, and access healthcare.
Insecure Low Wage Work
Work without a formal written contract
Average work week
Experience Financial Insecurity
Of primary wage earners’ income below poverty line
Cannot cover basic expenses without a loan
Experience Health Risks
Lack health coverage
Work with potentially toxic disinfecting products
COVID-19 Impact on Household Cleaners in NYC: Economic and Health Precarity of Immigrant Latinx Cleaners in NYC
In this report, we present data from a survey of household cleaners in NYC and Westchester conducted between March 2021 and June 2021. As part of the Safe and Just Cleaners research project, we explored our study participants’ rates of Covid-19 cases, the economic and social impact of the pandemic and longitudinal changes in mental and physical health outcomes.
Household cleaners face financial insecurity due to loss of job opportunities during the pandemic (80% of them reported a reduction in income), lack of health coverage, precarious working conditions, immigration barriers, stigma related to having Covid-19 while feeling afraid to release their covid-19 status. All these factors are associated with the significant increase in their stress and depression levels.
Household cleaners’ situations have become even more urgent since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our study findings provide support for two proposed NY State initiatives: #ExcludedNoMore and #Coverage4All. All workers deserve to put food on the table, pay their rent, and access healthcare.
Planned Research Activities
Work App + Exposure assessment
We are interested in identifying the cleaning and disinfecting products used by household cleaners and their cleaning and disinfection methods. We plan to deploy a smartphone application for cleaners to use after completing a cleaning job. This information will provide valuable information to know more about the chemicals cleaner’s use while cleaning homes.
More importantly, we are interested in understanding how household cleaners come into contact with cleaning and disinfecting product ingredients. In our study, we will be measuring Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs). For these chemicals, we plan to evaluate the inhalation and dermal exposures during common household cleaning tasks in the bathroom and the kitchen.
Covid-19 Social, Behavioral, & Economic Research
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted important social disparities contributing to disproportionate disease burden.
In New York City, the Latinx population has close to twice the COVID-19 death rate compared to the white, non-Latinx population and disproportionately experiences crowded housing, inadequate access to health care, and employment in precarious jobs without the option of working from home.
Household cleaners’ situations have become even more urgent since the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow-up discussions with participants have illuminated how job loss, significant increased use of disinfecting products if working, and ongoing health access barriers have further stressed cleaners’ financial, physical and mental health. Our project is collecting additional survey data from the original 402 cleaners survey participants (pre-pandemic) to understand how immigrant Latinx household cleaners in New York have experienced the health, socioeconomic, and work impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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