"People who have worked as cleaners or done household cleaning for 20 years have reduced lung function equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day, for the same period of time", says PHD-candidate Øistein Svanes, at the Department of Clinical Science, at the University of Bergen. In fact, their lung function decline runs similar to that of smokers. According to a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, lung health declined faster for "women responsible for cleaning at home", with things like cleaning sprays contributing to that effect.
Some people just can't be bothered to clean their house - no matter how many times their parents or partners beg them to pick up the hoover, they'd rather live happily in squalor.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway, the team analyzed data from 6,235 participants who were followed for more than 20 years. The smokers among the participants were found to have smoked 7 pack-years at baseline. It is a numerical value of lifetime tobacco exposure.
The same trend was not found for men who regularly used cleaning products.
In addition, the results also showed that women who cleaned were also more likely to have asthma, with 12.3 per cent of those who cleaned at home and 13.7 per cent of those who cleaned at work suffering from the condition, compared to 9.6 per cent of those who did not clean.
They believe that regularly breathing in cleaning chemicals slowly irritates the lining of the airways, leading to long-term lung damage.
Researchers explain that their study was limited thanks to the small percentage of women who never cleaned, and the small group of men who worked as cleaners who they were able to analyse.
While the cleaning agents apparently did not hurt men, they had a major negative effect on women's lungs.
Due to their findings, researchers see the need to focus on preventing the harmful effects of exposure to chemical cleaning products. Previous research has found that male lungs are more resistant to damage from various irritants including tobacco smoke and wood dust.
"It is deeply concerning that this study shows cleaning products can cause long-term lung damage for people with asthma".
Co-author Oistein Svanes said that the level of impact of cleaning products on the lungs was surprising at first.
He added that the chemicals are usually unnecessary - microfibre cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.