By Meenu Johnkutty ‘21
The consistent use of cleaning products may be more dangerous than originally thought. Researchers from the American Thoracic Society recently published a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine outlining the negative effects of using cleaning products on a daily basis. The researchers conducted their study with a subject pool of over 6,235 participants followed longitudinally over a period of 20 years.
The researchers found that compared to women who did not clean, those who did had lower FEV1 values, defined as the amount of air that can be forcibly expelled in one second. Women who consistently cleaned also had a higher rate of decline in FEV1 values; those women who cleaned houses for a living reported even steeper rates of decline.
The researchers speculated that the decline in lung function is attributed to the chemical agents in cleaning products that irritate the mucous membranes lining airways. Over time, these irritations can cause permanent changes in airways, which in turn cause complications in respiratory function.
The study did report some limitations. Few women who did not clean at home or work were included in the study; those who did participate were contained to a niche socioeconomic group. The study also found that the number of men who worked as occupational cleaners was significantly low; as a result, this subject group was largely absent from the study. Despite these limitations, the researchers were firm in their advocacy for the use of microfiber cloth and water to clean surfaces as well as their claims that harsh cleaners are often unnecessary. The researchers also advised that policymakers impose regulations on cleaning products whose contents may damage the respiratory system.
- O. Svanes, et. al., Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction. ATS Journals (2018). doi: 10.1164/rccm.201706-1311OC.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-building-business-clean-209271/