Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

Researched at the University of Bergen assessed the lungs of 6,235 women and men at 22 centres and then checked on them over the course of twenty years. The damage was stark

According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bergen in western Norway, women who use cleaning agents regularly at home have reduced lung capacity over a long period of time in contrast to those who do not clean regularly.

Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the Bergen team, 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".

There was no difference found in the long-term lung function of the men who said they clean regularly and those that didn't, meaning it is possible that women are simply more susceptible to the effects of the chemicals.

The study also found 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%).

Well, dishcloth-dodgers have the flawless excuse as scientists have claimed that cleaning your home can be just as damaging to your lungs as smoking.

The products seemed to affect the lung capacity of women who took part in the study more than men, though they noted the number of male participants was small compared to the number of female participants.

The researchers said people should be careful choosing how they clean the surfaces in their homes.

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The 20-year research project that involved more than 6,000 participants, concluded that the women who worked as cleaners had the comparable lung function of someone who smoked for about "20 pack-years".

The authors write: "Women cleaning at home or working as occupational cleaners had accelerated decline in lung function, suggesting that exposures related to cleaning activities may constitute a risk to long-term respiratory health".

The study didn't have a well-formed control group as just a few participants did not use cleaning products but scientists consider the results strong enough to raise some alarms signals.

"That level of lung impairment was surprising at first", said lead study author Øistein Svanes, a doctoral student at the Department for Clinical Science.

They believe the cleaning chemicals irritate the mucous membranes that line the airways, which causes damage.

They recommend using microfibre cloths and water instead of harsh chemicals for most cleaning purposes.

Professor Cecilie Svanes at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, UiB, supervisor of the study, says the cleaning sprays are the main problem.

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