(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home show a greater decline in lung function over two decades than women who do use them, according to research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
In the article, “Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction,” 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 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,” said senior study author Prof. Cecile Svanes.
“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 team estimated that the exposure to chemicals caused damage similar to smoking cigarettes.
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.”
Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. For example, a one-pack-year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for a year, or 40 cigarettes per day for half a year, and so on.
The study found that compared to women not engaged in cleaning and those who did use strong cleaning materials had a much lower “forced vital capacity [the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale]. The FVC declined 4.3 ml. per year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml. per year faster in women who worked professionally as cleaners. Factors such as whether they smoked, weight and socioeconomic differences were taken into consideration in the study.
Prof. Gabriel Izbicki, head of the Pulmonary Institute of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, told The Jerusalem Post
: “I see all the time in my clinical practice the short-term effects of powerful cleaning materials on women who use them at home and who are professional cleaners. I especially see such cases before Passover, when women use bleach and abrasive oven cleaners to clean their homes for the holiday.”