Regular exposure to cleaning products significantly affects lung function, research has suggested.
The study of 6,000 people by a team from Norway’s University of Bergen, found women appeared to be more badly affected than men.
They said cleaning chemicals were “unnecessary” and microfiber cloths and water were “enough for most purposes”. UK experts said people should keep their homes well ventilated and use liquid cleaners instead of sprays.
The team looked at data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Previous studies have looked at the short-term effect of cleaning chemicals on asthma, but this work looked at the longer term.
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.”
Microfiber cloths and water ‘enough’
Adults in the study, published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, were followed for more than 20 years.
Their lung function was measured by looking at how much air people could forcibly breath out – and the amount declined more over the years in women who cleaned.
The authors suggest the chemicals in cleaning products irritate the mucous membranes that line the airways of the lungs, causing long-term damage. No difference was seen between men who cleaned and those who did not.
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.
Oistein Svanes, who also worked on the study, said: “The take-home message 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.”
Sarah MacFadyen, from the British Lung Foundation said: “Breathing in any kind of air pollution can have an impact on our health, especially for those living with a lung condition.
“This study further confirms that air pollution can come from a range of sources, including from paints, adhesives and cleaning products we use indoors.
“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.” BBC