Scrubbing the kitchen or bathroom clean is not most people’s idea of fun.
But aside from being an unwelcome chore, it could also be wreaking havoc with your health, a study has found.
Chemicals used in sprays and detergents which get our worktops and basins shining have also been linked to lung damage.
A Norwegian study found people who use household products are at greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – which includes the conditions chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chemicals found in household cleaning products are damaging lung function by 14 per cent more than average over 20 years, a Norwegian study has found
The study looked at 5,000 women over a 20 year period, using data from The European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS).
It found those who clean for a living had a 17 per cent greater decline in lung function compared to the average person.
But even those who simply scrub surfaces at home are were found to suffer from a 14 per cent greater loss of lung function.
This is thought to be because cleaning can expose people to chemical agents like ammonia, which irritate the airways, and other substances that can cause allergic airway disease.
Oistein Svanes, lead author from the University of Bergen, said people need to be more aware of exactly what they are spraying.
WHICH CHEMICALS CAN BE HARMFUL?
Many ingredients can cause asthma if they’re being used in the home though not all asthmatics will be affected.
Some of the more common are:
- Benzalkonium chloride (quaternary ammonium compound) – typically used as a disinfectant in household cleaners for floors and hard services
- Chlorine-based agents (sodium hypochlorite) – used as the active ingredient in bleach
- Some scents within cleaning agents e.g. limonene, which gives some products their ‘citrus’ smell
- Isothiazolinones – used in some washing up liquids and laundry washing liquids
Source: Healthy Lungs for Life
‘We need to start being much more aware of the chemicals we’re releasing into the air we breathe when we use things like cleaning spray.’
COPD kills 25,000 people in the UK annually, either from damage to the walls of tiny air sacs in the lungs (emphysema) or from inflamed and thickened airways plugged with thick mucus (chronic bronchitis).
The findings form part of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign – by the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Lung Foundation – seeking to reduce the number of people suffering from lung conditions.
Professor Jørgen Vestbo, President of ERS and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester, said there were things people could do to help.
‘Cleaning products can put people’s health at risk so people should be aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate against them,’ he said.
Using cleaning products over a prolonged period were at greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which includes the conditions chronic bronchitis and emphysema
‘If people have genuine concerns they should ensure that they discuss any symptoms and the possible link with their workplace with their doctor’.
The Healthy Lungs for Life campaign says people should check the ingredients and avoid products that could put people at risk and carefully follow instructions on the label.
It also says wipes, rather than sprays, have less airborne particles to breathe and suggests opening doors and windows during and after cleaning to ensure good ventilation.
The research will be presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in London which starts on Saturday.