We had a sneaking suspicion. It turns out that cleaning—with chemicals that is—really may be bad for you! A recent study conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway and published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that regular use of typical cleaning sprays by women can have as much health impact as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!
More than 6,000 people with an average age of 34 at the beginning of the study were tracked by the Norwegian University over 20 years. Scientists there discovered a marked reduction over the course of the study in how much air women who used cleaning sprays were able to forcibly breathe out. The results were compared to participants’ answers to a questionnaire about how often they used cleaning products.
This decrease in lung function was more significant for women who worked as cleaners or had done household cleaning. Interestingly, men in the study didn’t show the same results.
Not only were cleaning sprays to blame for a decline in women’s lung function and a decrease in their lung capacity, they were also shown to be responsible for increased asthma rates among the women.
Professor Cecilie Svanes, the senior author of the study, said, “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.”
“When you think of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all,” said Øistein Svanes, a doctoral student who led the study.
Asthma UK’s Dr. Samantha Walker adds, “Cleaning products can be toxic for people with asthma as they often contain chemical compounds that can inflame the airways, leaving people prone to an asthma attack.”
The results follow a September 2017 study by French scientists that found nurses who used disinfectants to clean surfaces at least weekly had an up to 32% greater risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The scientists conducting the study advised that cleaning sprays be avoided, actually suggesting the use of microfiber cloths and water instead.
(We at Norwex Movement would just add to that to always choose the best, highest-quality microfiber available on the market!)
Sarah MacFadyen of the British Lung Foundation has additional recommendations. “Ensuring we keep our homes well ventilated, using liquid cleaners instead of sprays and checking that our cookers and heaters are in good working order will help protect us and prevent everyday products impacting on our lungs,” she said.
And Asthma UK also advises choosing solid or liquid products over sprays, as well as keeping the area well ventilated and avoiding scented products.