Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

Caution: Cleaning this way is like smoking a pack a day, study says
Cleaning the house with harmful chemicals is worse than smoking 20 a day, study warns
Author

19 February, 2018

Experts say they cause damage to airways, speeding up the decline of our lungs as we age.

They also found increased rates of asthma among women who used the products regularly. The authors believe this group of women "constitute a selected socioeconomic group".

"There were indeed very few men who worked as cleaners, only 57 people, which made it hard to detect a possible difference", Oistein Svanes, the first author of the study, told NRK.

No effect was found on the lungs of men who did the cleaning - either professionally, or just as part of their domestic chores. The number of men who worked as occupational cleaners was also small, and their exposure to cleaning agents was likely different from that of women working as cleaning professionals.

The scientists said they were initially shocked by the results.

"This study further confirms that air pollution can come from a range of sources, including from paints, adhesives and cleaning products we use indoors".

For their assessment, the researchers examined the lungs of more than 6,200 women and men from 22 health institutions, following them over a course of 20 years.

That level of lung impairment was surprising at first, said Oistein Svanes, a doctoral student at University of Bergen.

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"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", said lead author Øistein Svanes of the University of Bergen, Norway.

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 remodelling.

They suggesetd that this may be because men's lungs are less susceptible to the impact of cleaning chemicals.

The researchers compared the damage to what some cigarette smokers would experience.

Study's authors concluded that, in the long-run, cleaning products chemicals cause irreversible damage to the lungs and asked people to limit the use of such products.

He added that public health officials should strictly regulate cleaning products and encourage producers to develop cleaning agents that can not be inhaled.

"The easiest advice is to avoid using so many chemicals when cleaning for most tasks it is enough to use water and a microfiber cloth", Svanes said. To lower the risk, the British Lung Foundation suggests looking for products that are labeled "allergy friendly" as they have fewer chemicals.

According to United Kingdom experts, people should keep their homes well ventilated and use liquid cleaners instead of sprays.


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