Cleaning Is ‘As Bad For Your Lungs’ As Smoking

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A recent study has discovered using everyday cleaning sprays can be ‘as harmful to women’s lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day’.

Another study found household products may account for as much as ‘half of air pollution in cities’.

The study, which found cleaning sprays to be as harmful as smoking, found lung capacity fell 4.3mls a year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1mls a year faster if they worked as cleaners, writes the Irish Mirror.

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The study also found asthma was ‘more prevalent’, but men who cleaned did not show a similar decline in lung capacity.

Professor Dr Cecile Svanes, of the University of Bergen, in Norway, said:

Cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs.

She added sprays were usually unnecessary as a ‘wet microfibre cloth was enough’.

Dr Samantha Walker, of Asthma UK, said the study was ‘deeply concerning’.

The second study, which was published at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Austin, Texas, found 50 per cent of ‘volatile organic compounds’ (VOCs) in the air in Los Angeles originated from products such as paint, pesticides, bleach and perfumes.

Professor Jonathan Grigg, of the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘Air pollution can come from a range of sources’.

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On the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) website, it offers guidance for those who are concerned about their health when using VOCs.

Some examples of VOCs are acetone, benzene and formaldehyde and it’s ‘a good idea to avoid breathing in too many VOCs.

Formaldehyde is a VOC. You can sometimes find it in carpets, furniture, shelving and flooring – this is why some people say the smell of a new sofa or soft furnishing sets off their allergies, or makes their asthma worse.

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If this applies to you, try to avoid products containing formaldehyde – products containing formaldehyde should be clearly labelled under EU regulations from April 2015.

More rigorous research is needed before we can be certain about the effects of breathing in these chemicals in our homes. About half of studies to date suggest being exposed to these chemicals increases your risk of developing an allergy or asthma.

The BLF’s advice on avoiding VOCs includes:

  • Consider other ways of cleaning. 
    The best way to avoid coming into contact with chemicals found in cleaning products is not to use them. If you can, use a damp cloth to clean instead.
  • Avoid chemical-heavy products
    You can also try to avoid buying products that have high quantities of chemicals in them. Look for products that are labelled allergy friendly, as these have lower levels of volatile chemicals and are usually fragrance-free.Try using natural paints that are based on natural chemicals.  Paints advertised as water-based or low VOC may still contain hazardous chemicals.
  • Avoid sprays
    When possible, use solid or liquid cleaning products rather than sprays. Sprays get into the air so you can breathe them in more easily and get further down into your airways. If you think the smell of cleaning products triggers your symptoms, go for unscented products.
  • Ventilate your home
    Always open a window when you are cleaning or decorating to make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
  • Bear young children in mind
    Avoid paint or wallpaper if you’re decorating a room for a new baby. Babies and very young children are far more affected by emissions from chemicals than adults.
  • Read the label
    Finally, always remember to follow advice on the labels of products about how to use them safely. Dispose carefully of partly-used containers.