Cleaning the home can pose a significant health risk if it involves the use of chemicals. Researchers have found that women who regularly use cleaning products at home are at greater risk for lung damage compared with their counterparts who do not clean.

Hazards Of Working With Cleaning Chemicals

Working with cleaning chemicals has long been known to cause wheezing, coughing, itchy eyes, sore throat, shortness of breath, asthma, nosebleeds, and dizziness. Now, researchers said that the effects of working with these cleaning products are comparable to that of smoking.

In a study published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Øistein Svanes, from the University of Bergen in Norway, and colleagues reported that the lung function decline in women who regularly use cleaning products is similar to those who smoke 20 cigarettes per day.

“For comparison within our study population, similar models with similar adjustments showed that heavy smokers (>20 pack-years) had excess decline of 6.1 ml/year in FEV1 and 8.9 ml/year in FVC,” the researchers wrote in their study. “The effect of occupational cleaning was thus comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 pack-years.”

Svanes explained that use of cleaning chemicals may speed up the rate of lung function decline because these cleaning agents steadily cause damage to the airways. Most cleaning chemicals cause irritations on the mucous membranes that line the airways, which may eventually lead to changes in the airways and airway remodeling.

“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.

Safety Tips

The best way to avoid exposure to lung-damaging cleaning products is to avoid them. The researchers said that cleaning chemicals are not often necessary as microfiber cloths and water can do the job,

Solid or liquid cleaning products can also be used instead of sprays. Sprays can get into the air, so they are breathed in more easily.

Green cleaners also offer safer options. These are cleaning products that are certified to be safer to use and less harmful to the health and the environment. It is also a good idea to open the window when cleaning a room to ensure there is plenty of ventilation.

The researchers urged public health officials to strictly regulate cleaning products and the producers of these cleaning agents to develop products that cannot be inhaled.