“How to Smoke 20 Cigarettes a Day”: the Damage Caused by Household Cleaning Products

The regular use of certain cleaning products can have harmful effects on the lungs, according to a recent study from the University of Bergen in Norway

The regular use of certain cleaning products can have harmful effects on the lungs, according to a recent study from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen in Norway.

The researchers studied more than 6,000 people of both sexes for 20 years and found that women “who clean at home or who work as professional cleaners had an accelerated decrease in their lung function.”

This “suggests that exposures related to cleanup activities could constitute a long-term respiratory health risk, ” the study warns.

And, according to scientists, many times the use of chemical cleaning products is “unnecessary”, since fabrics made with microfibers and water are “sufficient in most cases”.

As if smoking n

Previous studies had already explored the short-term effects of these chemicals on asthma, but Norwegian research focused on the long term.

“We feared that these chemicals, by sustainably damaging the airways a little,  day after day, year after year, could accelerate the rate of decline in lung function that occurs with age,” explained the research coordinator, professor Cecile Svanes.

To verify his hypothesis, his team used the results of the Respiratory Health Survey of the European Community in three points in a period of 20 years: from 1992 to 1994, from 1998 to 2002 and from 2010 to 2012.

Each survey included interviews, spirometries, questionnaires, anthropometric measurements, among other resources.

And the study found that the size of the effect (to a prolonged exposure to chemicals in cleaning products) was comparable to that of smoking between 20 and 40 cigarettes a  day.

More women

The group analyzed were men and women, whose ages ranged between 20 and 44 years between 1992 and 1994.

And one of the aspects that draw the attention of this study is that the vast majority of people who presented the effects were female.Most of the women who participated in the study indicated that they were responsible for cleaning at home. ISTOCK

In fact, in the case of men, no significant differences were found in the levels of decline in lung capacity of those who performed cleaning tasks and those who did not.

According to the researchers, this can be explained because there are far fewer men working as professional cleaners, but it also suggests that women may be more susceptible to the effects of chemicals.

For Svanes it is key that the study be taken into account to prevent exposure of the respiratory tract to harmful substances during cleaning activities.

“This study confirms that air pollution comes from many sources, including paints, adhesives and cleaning products,” Sarah MacFadyen, of the British Lung Foundation, told the BBC.

“Ensuring that we have our homes well ventilated, that we use liquid cleaners instead of sprays, can help protect us and avoid the impact of everyday products on our lungs,” he added.Previous research demonstrated health risks that may involve exposure to some of the chemicals present in everyday products. ISTOCK

Indeed, cleaning products are not the only products of daily use that can negatively affect health.

Another study recently published in the journal Science found that “pesticides, coatings, inks, adhesives and personal care products such  as perfumes  produce more than twice the polluting emissions of automobiles.”


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