Published: Mon, February 19, 2018
Medical | By Garry George

Household cleaning products may harm lung function in women

Household cleaning products may harm lung function in women

They found that lung function decline in women regularly using the products, such as cleaners, was equivalent over the period to those with a 20 cigarettes a day smoking habit.

During the research, 6,235 men and women were observed for 20 years from the time they were around 34.

They found the amount of air women could forcibly exhale in a second and the amount of air they could forcibly exhale total declined faster in those who cleaned at home or professionally.

The study also shows that cleaners have 40 per cent higher risk of developing asthma than others. No such effect was found on men's lungs.

The men who cleaned, in the meantime, did not experience greater decline in the exhale tests than those who did not clean.

They then examined the results alongside a questionnaire in which participants had been asked about the frequency of their use of cleaning products. The authors believe this group of women "constitute a selected socioeconomic group".

In the study, 1,512 men never cleaned the house, compared to just 197 women.

They were categorized as "cleaning", "not cleaning", and "occupational cleaning".

The researchers suggest that people should use bleach to clean less - as "water and a microfibre cloth" are sufficient for most cleaning tasks.

"That level of lung impairment was surprising at first", said lead study author Øistein Svanes, a doctoral student at the Department for Clinical Science.

"When you think of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all".

"The decline in lung function is attributable to the irritation that most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining the airways, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodeling", the authors said.

"The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs", Svanes said.

Professor Cecilie Svanes at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, UiB, supervisor of the study, says the cleaning sprays are the main problem.

"It is deeply concerning that this study shows cleaning products can cause long-term lung damage for people with asthma".

"Ensuring we keep our homes well ventilated, using liquid cleaners instead of sprays and checking that our cookers and heaters are in good working order will help protect us and prevent everyday products impacting on our lungs".

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