A study led by researchers in the University of Bergen in Norway has shown that the majority of household cleaning products are as toxic for the lungs as cigarette smoke. Women are more exposed to this risk than men. So how did the researchers come to this conclusion?
The researchers produced a questionnaire and studied the responses of 6,235 participants coming from 22 hospitals situated in the European Union. The volunteers were asked questions such as: “Do you have to do the housework at home or for your job?”, “What types of cleaning products do you use?”, or “How many times a week do you clean your household utensils?”
According to the researchers, women are at most risk in hospitals (and presumably at home as well), because there are more women who work as cleaners and who regularly use cleaning products. The results show that these women “are subjected to more significantly reduced lung function over time than women who don’t do the cleaning” or women who do less cleaning.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on the 16th February 2018, allowed researchers to confirm that over a period of 10 years, the use of cleaning products could have the same effects on a person’s lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a year. Obviously, this is “only” a cigarette and a half per month, but according to the Norwegian researchers, “even if the levels of inflammation are low in the long term, they could lead to definitive respiratory problems such as asthma.”
The majority of cleaning products contain chemical ingredients, especially ones containing bleach or ammonia, which are highly irritating for the lungs. Spray products also make the lung tissue more fragile.
Further research is needed to understand why men are spared from the respiratory problems linked to cleaning products, apart from the fact that they are less present in the field of professional cleaning services.