People who are regularly exposed to cleaning agents in the home or office are at a significantly higher risk of developing permanent lung damage, a long-term study conducted by Norwegian health researchers has found.
The greatest risk of harm is found in cleaners and detergents that come in aerosol and spray form, which are easily inhaled, especially in more confined spaces of the home, such as bathroom and kitchens.
The Norwegian study, released as part of a European Union Healthy Lungs for Life campaign, followed 5,000 women over the course of 20 years, and found that those whose professional job duties included cleaning had a 17-percent greater decline in lung function due to their exposure to chemicals such as ammonia and other harmful chemicals.
But even women who regularly clean their homes with chemical-based cleaners are also at risk. The study showed that they had a 14-percent greater decline in lung function over the 20-year period than those who did not routinely use the spray cleaners.
According to the research, any cleaner that causes you to wheeze, cough, or experience shortness of breath during low-exertion activity is likely harming your lungs. Over several years, these exposures may lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
Researchers also expressed concern that cleaners have become increasingly powerful in recent years, with some household cleaners using industrial chemicals to destroy superbugs.
“Some household cleaners are now using the same substances used in industrial cleaners, and I think this is a response to reports of superbugs in hospitals 10 or 15 years ago. I think they have become stronger,” Dr. Gareth Walters, of the West Midlands NHS Regional Occupational Lung Disease Service, told the Mirror.
Dr. Walters told the Mirror that he sees a number of patients with lung injuries caused by household cleaners, but more often he sees “people where cleaning agents have been implicated in their job. It’s largely health care workers, professional cleaners and people who work in institutions that need cleaning regularly.”
Researchers advise reading the cleaner’s labeling and avoid those with the following chemical ingredients:
- Methylisothiazolinone (MI/MIT) – found in kitchen and floor sprays, as
well as in some over-the-counter beauty products.
- 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 some laundry washing liquids.
People may also protect their lungs by avoiding aerosol or spray cleaners, opening windows and turning on fans to ventilate the area being cleaned, avoiding mixing chemicals with warm or hot water that evaporate quicker or release steam, and following instructions for safe chemical use.
Source: The Mirror