Published: Sat, February 17, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Women who regularly use cleaning supplies are prone to lung damage

Women who regularly use cleaning supplies are prone to lung damage

Women who clean using chemicals at home and at work show faster declines in some lung function, according to a new study spanning 20 years. "Think of particles from cleansers meant for floors, not lungs, and maybe it's no surprise".

The women who cleaned at home declined 3.6 ml per year faster in FEV1, and 4.3 ml faster in FVC.

Investigators reached conclusions after analyzing data on 6,200 subjects spanning more than 20 years from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

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

In comparison, the authors found the decrease in lung function in women working as cleaners akin to that of women who smoke almost 20 packets of cigarettes in a year.

Professional cleaners and women suffer most.

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".


The study has some limitations: the study population included very few women who did not clean at home or work.

The study also found asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 per cent) or at work (13.7 per cent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 per cent).

The authors suggest the chemicals in cleaning products irritate the mucous membranes that line the airways of the lungs, causing long-term damage.

Researchers failed to find any effect on the lungs of men who cleaned either professionally or at home, the Daily Mail says.

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

"At Asthma UK we'd advise people with the condition who do a lot of cleaning to speak to their GP or nurse about what they can realistically do to reduce the risk of having an asthma attack".

"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.

Experts in the United Kingdom say people should keep their homes well ventilated and use liquid cleaners instead of sprays, the BBC adds.

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