Health & Wellness

Cleaning Products May Be as Bad for Your Lungs as Smoking

A new study suggests that regularly using cleaning sprays can cause lung damage

By Katrina Caruso


Scientists already knew that there’s a connection between the regular use of cleaning products and asthma, but they weren’t sure about the long-term effects. Well, according to researchers in Norway, the regular use of household cleaning products (particularly cleaning sprays) can be just as bad for our lungs as smoking almost 20 cigarettes a day.

Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway followed 6,235 people participating in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey subjects for 20 years. The average age of those surveyed was 34 at the start of the study. The most signifcant decline in lung function was among women who had long worked as cleaners for a living, in regular contact with cleaning agents. Their lung function deteriorated at rates similar to those of 20-cigarette-a-day smokers. Women who cleaned their owns homes regularly were at an elevated risk for asthma. Those who did not clean did not show the same decrease.

Men showed less drastic decreases in their lung functions, although there were far fewer men in the study.

The results of the study were published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Another study, published in September 2017, showed the effect of disinfectants on the lungs of nurses: those who used such cleaners once a week were 22 to 32% more likely to develop chronic breathing issues such as asthma. In reporting their results, researchers recommended relying on microfiber cloths and water alone to clean surfaces.

If you want to switch to a more natural cleaning product, consider using white vinegar as a base. You can make your own homemade cleaning solution with white vinegar, lemons, and Castile soap.

Photo: iStock/grinvalds.