Cleaning Can Damage Your Lungs

Norwegian researchers have found that women who regularly use chemical cleaning products may be risking their lung function. The changes seen were comparable to the effects of smoking a bit less than a pack of cigarettes daily for 20 years. The researchers analyzed two decades worth of data from 6,235 participants in a European respiratory health survey. Results showed that the amount of air women can forcibly exhale in one second declined 3.6 milliliters (ml) per year faster among those who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml per year faster in those who worked as cleaners, compared to their non-cleaning peers. The total amount of air the women could forcibly exhale dropped 4.3 ml per year in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml per year in cleaning workers. They also found that asthma was more prevalent among women who regularly cleaned than among women who don’t. The investigators attributed the changes to the effects of cleaning chemicals on the mucous membranes lining the airways. No lung function changes occurred in men who cleaned. Study leader Øistein Svanes said the types of cleaning chemicals that caused the lung damage “are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.”

Øistein Svanes et al, “Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, February 16, 2018; DOI: 10.1164/rccm. 

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