Lung Function Declines Faster in Women Who Use Cleaning Products

According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bergen in western Norway, women who use cleaning agents regularly at home have reduced lung capacity over a long period of time in contrast to those who do not clean regularly.

The researchers tracked the health of 6,000 adults over a 20 year period, looking at data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

The group took lung function tests: the maximum forced vital capacity assessment (FVC) measured how much air they could exhale at once, and the maximum forced expired volume in one second (FEV1) examination measured just the first second of forced air.

In addition, the results also showed that women who cleaned were also more likely to have asthma, with 12.3 per cent of those who cleaned at home and 13.7 per cent of those who cleaned at work suffering from the condition, compared to 9.6 per cent of those who did not clean.

While the cleaning agents apparently did not hurt men, they had a major negative effect on women's lungs.

As you might have noticed above, the study surprisingly found that women were more badly affected by the impact of cleaning chemicals than men. The women who cleaned at work declined faster still - 3.9 ml per year in FEV1, and 7.1 ml in FVC.

The academics found there was no difference in long-term lung function between men who said they regularly cleaned and those who did not.

The authors write: "Women cleaning at home or working as occupational cleaners had accelerated decline in lung function, suggesting that exposures related to cleaning activities may constitute a risk to long-term respiratory health".

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 researchers compared the damage to what some cigarette smokers would experience.

"These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfibre cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes", he added.

New research has found that the use of cleaning sprays can cause significant damage to women's lungs - but the same effect doesn't appear to apply to men. His suggestion is to develop cleaning products that can't be inhaled, or use simpler cleaning methods.

  • Delores Daniels