Could cleaning be impacting your breathing?

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, showed that using chemical cleaning products could harm female workers’ lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 10 to 20 years. Women who use sprays and other cleaning products at home as little as once a week may also harm their lungs, although the study did not quantify the impact by comparison with smoking.

Links to new-onset asthma and aggravated asthma, wheezing, respiratory infections and irritation from exposure to chemical cleaners are well documented in the scientific literature.  The study thought to be the first to assess occupational or domestic cleaning product exposure as it relates to the decline of lung function. Diminished lung function is a sign of lung disease or possible future development of the disease, which can be fatal.

Women face disproportionate exposures to the hazardous agents in cleaning products because – as this study and data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among others, supports – they are responsible for the majority of cleaning chores at home and represent the majority of the domestic cleaning workforce.

Follow these tips to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals:

  • Avoid spray cleaners. If you do use them, spray into a cloth rather than directly on a surface, which helps reduce your inhalation of tiny cleaning solution droplets.
  • Skip chemical and fragranced cleaning products. Regular cleaning with simple soap and water or baking soda and water will remove usual household grime and keep mold levels in check.
  • Abrasive sponges and microfiber tools are also effective alternatives to harsh chemicals.
  • Visit EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which provides safety ratings for more than 2,500 products and can help you make better choices for products to use at home.