It is official, research published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows that cleaning your house lead to decreased lung function. Cleaning your house is the equivalent of smoking 20 packs of cigarettes a year.
The culprit is not cleaning per se, but cleaning with household cleaners or sprays.
In "Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction," researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed data from 6,235 participants in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. The participants, whose average age was 34 when they enrolled, were followed for more than 20 years.
"While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact," said senior study author Cecile Svanes, MD, PhD, a professor at the university's Centre for International Health. "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 study found that compared to women not engaged in cleaning:
- Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), or the amount of air a person can forcibly exhale in one second, declined 3.6 milliliters (ml)/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
- Forced vital capacity (FVC), or the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, declined 4.3 ml/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
The authors speculate that 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 remodeling.
The study did not find that the ratio of FEV1 to FVC declined more rapidly in women who cleaned than in those who did not. The metric is used when diagnosing and monitoring patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The study did find that asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 percent) or at work (13.7 percent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 percent)."The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs," Øistein Svanes said. "These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes."
He added that public health officials should strictly regulate cleaning products and encourage producers to develop cleaning agents that cannot be inhaled.
Materials provided by American Thoracic Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.