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Study: Cleaning products decrease lung capacity over time

Anyone who's ever burned the midnight oil at the office is familiar with the hard work done by people who clean those buildings after most of us go home. Of course, cleaning occupations can be back-breaking. However, people who regularly use cleaning products face other serious health risks.

Regular exposure to cleaning sprays can be as dangerous as a pack-a-day cigarette habit. That's the finding of a Norwegian university study. Scientists followed 6,000 workers (mostly women) who regularly used cleaning products over a 20-year period.

They measured their lung function over this period and looked at the results in conjunction with how often participants used cleaning products. Ingredients in these products have been shown to damage the mucous membranes that line our airways.

One of the study's lead authors noted, "While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented," there has been less data on the potential long-term effect. He said they sought to determine whether cleaning products, "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."

That hypothesis was borne out. They found that those who regularly used cleaning products not only had higher rates of asthma, but significantly less lung capacity compared to those who didn't. This degeneration in lung capacity was greater in the women studied than the relatively small number of men who participated in the research.

While the results are important, they are not unexpected. As another one of the study's authors said, "When you think of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all."

These days, it's possible to choose cleaning products that aren't packed with harsh chemicals. The scientists involved in the study recommend cleaning with microfiber cloths and plain water.

That may be fine for our individual household cleaning. However, people who work in cleaning professions generally have to use the stronger products that are provided to them.

People who believe that their illness was caused by their work have the right to find out what their legal options are for compensation to get needed medical care and to help them if they are no longer able to work in their profession.

Source: Newsweek, "Impact of Cleaning Products on Women's Lungs as Damaging as 20-a-Day Cigarette Habit: Study," Tom Porter, accessed April 20, 2018

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