Finally, here is the news that many housewives and some men have been waiting a long time to hear. Researchers have now found a link between respiratory symptoms and house cleaning as well as occupations that involve cleaning.
Cleaning tasks imply the exposure to chemical agents, which may have harmful effects on the respiratory system. An increased risk of asthma and other respiratory symptoms have been reported by professional cleaners, as well as persons cleaning at home. A long term study was conducted to investigate the effects of occupational cleaning and cleaning at home on lung function decline and airway obstruction. The study was conducted over a 20 year period and examined over 6,200 participants.
The study found that respiratory health was impaired 10 to 20 years after regular cleaning activities. The decline in respiratory health was defined as an accelerated reduction in the parameters we measure on pulmonary function studies. The declines were comparable to those found in individuals who had smoked 10 to 20 pack years of cigarettes.
The cause for these problems may have its basis in the fact that many cleaning agents have an irritant effect on the surfaces of the airways. Therefore, one possible explanation for the decline in lung function is the repeated exposure to low-grade irritants over time.
Should we stop cleaning? I hope we don’t. However, it is important to take whatever precautions your cleaning products suggest. This includes proper ventilation when in use. See your lung doctor if you have any symptoms.