Recent study finds that household cleaning chemicals decrease lung function over time

Being clean may do wonders for your health, but how you do it may leave you worse off. As has been suspected by researchers for a long time, the use of cleaning products can harm your lungs and you may not even know it.

A study from the University of Bergen in Norway looked into the effects of cleaning products on women who used them regularly. The researchers suspected that while cleaning chemicals may not cause immediate and significant damage, they do affect the lungs gradually over time.

They looked at data from 6,235 participants of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. At the time of the study, the participants had an average age of 34. They were tracked by the researchers over a period of 20 years.

To measure the effects of cleaning chemicals on lung function, the researchers obtained the participants’ forced expiratory air volume for one second (FEV1), the amount of air a person can forcibly exhale within one second. They also took forced vitality (FVC) measurements, which determine the total amount of air a person can exhale forcibly.

They found that women who worked as cleaners experienced a 3.9 mL faster decline of FEV1 per year, while those who cleaned regularly at home using chemical cleaners had a 3.6 mL faster decline. These figures were compared to women who did not work as cleaners or did not use cleaning products on a regular basis.

Furthermore, cleaners’ FVC figures declined by 7.1 mL on average every year. Women who cleaned regularly at home had a 4.3 mL/year faster decline. (Related: Many cleaning products, especially those billed as “antibacterial,” contain toxic chemicals that cause physical damage.)

Previous studies have looked into the short-term effects of toxic chemicals in cleaning solutions on asthma, but the aforementioned research was the first to examine their long-term impact on the lungs. The researchers believe that the fumes from the cleaning products result in irritation which, with time and constant exposure, worsens significantly and weakens the lungs. The damage has been likened to that of cigarettes.

Interestingly, the effect was observed only in women. Men who cleaned regularly showed no significant difference in terms of either FEV1 or FVC compared to men who did not use cleaning products.

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cleaning your home naturally

Thankfully, there are ways to keep your home clean without having to use toxic chemicals that will harm your health and that of your loved ones’. Here are some natural cleaning products you can use every day:

  • Water – It’s not called the “universal solvent” for nothing. Learning to use the various aspects of water, such as its pressure and temperature, to your advantage can be a life-saver. For example, warm water works great for hardened grease near your stove, while hot water can be used to deglaze hardened and burnt residues in your pots and pans.
  • Salt – There are several ways to use salt for cleaning. By itself, it can scrub tough stains off from hard surfaces. If you have bottles with very narrow openings, just pour water and some salt inside, shake vigorously, and rinse. You’d be glad to know that salt also has antimicrobial and bleaching properties, making it an excellent, all-around natural cleaning ingredient.
  • Baking soda – Sodium bicarbonate, as it’s called scientifically, is effective at removing tough stains because of its mild abrasive properties. It also works great as a deodorizer, making it ideal for cleaning out your oven or fridge.
  • Vinegar – Its acidity makes it one of the best all-around natural cleaning agents. Not only does vinegar eliminate tough stains, it also acts as a mild antiseptic. Use it to remove water stains on glass or to increase the gleam of faucets, knobs, and shower heads at home.
  • Essential oils – They are a great way to imbue your home with nature’s fragrance. Essential oils like tea tree oil also have potent antibacterial properties so adding them improve the effectiveness of your natural, homemade cleaning solution.

Learn more about the dangers of toxic chemicals at

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