Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than those who did not clean, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM).

In the study, 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 were 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," senior study author Cecile Said Svanes, a professor at the university's Center 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:

  1. 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
  2. Forced vital capacity ( FVC ), or the total amount of air to 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 found that the accelerated lung function decline in the women working as cleaners was "comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 pack- years."

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 cleared than in those who did not. The metric is used when diagnosing and monitoring patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study did find that asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3%) or at work (13.7%) compared to those who did not clean (9.6%).

The study did not find That Also men WHO cleaned, at home or at Either work, experienced greater decline in FEV1 or FVC than men WHO did not.

The researchers took into account factors that might have biased the results, including smoking history, body mass index and education.

"The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause substantial damage to your lungs," said lead study author Øistein Svanes, a doctoral student at the Department for Clinical Science. "These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes."

I have added that public health officials should strictly regulate cleaning products and encourage producers to develop cleaning agents that can not be inhaled.