Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Women who regularly use cleaning sprays at home experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean.

Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analysed data from 6 235 women who were followed for more than 20 years in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

“While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact,” said senior study author Cecile Svanes, MD, PhD, a professor at the university’s Centre for International Health.

“We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”

The authors found that the accelerated lung function decline in the women working as cleaners was “comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 pack-years”.

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Destructive power of cleaning products

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

“However, 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 authors speculate that the decline in lung function is attributable to the irritation that most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining the airways. Over time, this results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodelling.

The study also did not find that men who cleaned, either at home or at work, experienced greater lung function decline than men who did not.

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

How to protect yourself

“The take-home message of this study is that, in the long run, cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs,” Øistein Svanes said. “These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfibre cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.”

Source: American Thoracic Society via www.sciencedaily.com

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