Housework can be harmful to your health.
So say researchers at Norway’s University of Bergen who found that regular exposure to cleaning products — at home or on the job — has significant impact on women’s lungs.
Irritation from chemicals, including ammonia, on mucous membranes lining airways is the key, according to research published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Investigators reached conclusions after analyzing data on 6,200 subjects spanning more than 20 years from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.
“While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact,” said lead author Cecile Svanes in a statement.
“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,” Svanes said.
Lung health was measured by looking at capacity and how much air subjects could forcibly breathe out.
No difference was found between men who cleaned and those who did not. But the affect on women working as cleaners, said Svanes, was “comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 pack- years.” A pack year is defined as 20 cigarettes smoked daily for one year.
The researchers said that could “partly be explained by there being far fewer men working as cleaners, but also suggested women might be more susceptible to the chemicals’ effects,” the BBC reported.
“The take-home message,” said co-author Oistein Svanes, “ is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs. These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.”