Take Charge

Cleaning or Smoking: Which is Worse for Your Lungs?

February 21, 2018

Cleaning-sprays.jpg

By Kim Polacek

Could cleaning be bad for your health? A new study out of Norway suggests the answer is yes. 

Scientists followed more than 6,000 people for more than 20 years and found that women who used cleaning products regularly - once a week or more - experienced a faster reduction in lung function than women who did not clean on a regular basis. They described the decline in lung function as comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years. Men who participated in the study did not see a decline in lung function whether they cleaned or not. 

Harsh cleaners like ammonia and bleach are known to irritate the mucous membranes lining the airway. Breakdown of those membranes can result in asthma, chronic airway obstruction or low-grade inflammation. 

Moffitt epidemiologist Matthew Schabath says while the researchers do not discuss the potential impact of this type of lung function decline and cancer, it might warrant study. "Low-grade inflammation over an extended period of time could have the potential to induce hyperplasia or other cellular changes that can be risk factors for cancer." 

Dr. Schabath suggests reducing your risks by choosing natural cleaners when possible. Here are some other helpful tips to keep in mind when cleaning at home: 

  • Avoid chemicals and harsh cleaners when possible. Opt for water or vinegar and a microfiber instead.
  • Use steel wool or salt when in need of an abrasive cleanser.
  • Wear a mask when cleaning.
  • Open windows and doors when cleaning.