A recently released Norwegian study claims that cleaning products may be as detrimental to the lungs as smoking. The twenty-year study examined the effects of cleaning products on men and women. Researchers compared the lung function of people who did not clean with those who cleaned at home at least once per week and those who professionally cleaned. The results were surprising. According to the study’s authors, lung function decreased significantly in the groups who professionally cleaned and cleaned at home. The rate of decline in women was comparable to smoking 10-20 pack/years.
Researchers stated the fact that cleaning products can have detrimental effects on the body is not new news. According to the United States Poison Control Centers in 2000, ten percent of calls to poison control centers were due to toxic exposure to cleaning products. Popular cleaning products are filled with chemicals that are caustic, give off gases, or are cancer causing. Others have chemicals that irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system or even block hormones. These hormone disruptors can decrease sperm count and cause birth defects.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, there is good news. An increasing number of stores, like Sprouts, Aldis’s, Earth Fare, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, offer organic and natural cleaning product alternatives. Some companies’ may push products filled with fragrances and chemicals, however, more are offering cleaners that use simple solutions with safer ingredients, like vinegar, citrus, baking soda, and Castille soap. These products are non-toxic and do provide fewer user side effects even with prolonged usage.
The Norwegian study did not say if the effects of prolonged cleaning chemical use were reversible, and further research into the subject may be needed. In the meantime, the American Lung Association says the way to healthier lungs is by limiting exposure to chemicals, reading product ingredients, avoid mixing cleaners, and following all product directions.