Study shows that household cleaning sprays are as bad for your lungs as cigarettes

The chemicals you use to clean your home or office every day are extremely harmful for your health. Norwegian researchers warned that daily exposure to these household cleaning sprays is like smoking an entire pack of cigarettes each day, an article in the University of Bergen news page reported.

Professional cleaners who use these cleaning sprays on an everyday basis are exposed to a greater risk of developing symptoms of asthma and other respiratory ailments. So are people who use the chemicals to clean their homes.

Long-term exposure to these chemicals appears to speed up the weakening of the lungs and makes cases of chronic airway obstruction more likely. The cleaning sprays may also be responsible for a low but constant state of inflammation that injures the airways over time.

The cleaning chemicals could also cause the onset of asthma in the patient. Asthma will inflict similar persistent damage to the airways, leading to more serious chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Huge survey determines the amount of exposure to cleaning chemicals

Researchers at the University of Bergen investigated the health effects of home cleaning and occupational cleaning over long periods of time. They sought out any connections with the long-term decline of lung function and respiratory health.

They drew upon the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, a large cohort of participants based on random samples of the population. These participants underwent medical evaluation of their lung function using either spirometry or bronchodilator.

They also answered questions regarding their cleaning activities. The participants elaborated on whether or not they cleaned their homes or worked as professional cleaners. They were also queried about their use of cleaning agents such as sprays and other products.

Researchers also used a formula to calculate pack-years based on the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the body mass index.

Out of 6,230 participants, slightly over half were women. Forty-four percent have never smoked in their entire lives, while those who did smoke consumed an average of 7.0 pack-years.

Eighty-five percent of the female participants and 46.5 percent of the males cleaned at home. Only 8.9 percent of the women and 1.9 percent of the men worked as professional cleaners.

More often than not, people who cleaned at home did not smoke. If they did, they smoked fewer pack-years than the others. (Related: Say what? Smoking found to increase risk of hearing loss, according to study.)

A day’s exposure to cleaning chemicals is like smoking 20 cigarettes

The researchers found that women who did not work as cleaners or did not clean at home were the least exposed to cleaning chemicals. Their group showed the lowest decline of lung function.

In contrast, women who worked as cleaners for a living displayed the highest mean decline of both Forced Vital Capacity and Forced Expired Volume in one second. This group included women who performed cleaning duties at work and at home, meaning they were even more heavily exposed to cleaning chemicals.

Furthermore, men who cleaned at home experienced more diagnoses of asthmatic symptoms than either non-cleaning women or male cleaning workers. These results led researchers to believe that there was a connection between the faster decline of absolute lung function and exposure levels to cleaning agents.

Cleaning agents are known to irritate sensitive parts of the body. These chemicals are also known to cause swelling of the airway, which damages the sensitive tissues of the passageway.

The researchers recommended finding ways to reduce the exposure to run-of-the-mill cleaning products. There are natural alternatives that are much safer for human use.

Find out how you can break the bad habit of smoking at

Sources include: [PDF]

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