If you clean your own home at least once a week, listen up.
Research published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows how many of us are vulnerable to household chemicals when it comes to long-term lung function.
Marta Cruz cleans houses for a living. She and other folks who often use household cleansers are regularly exposed to harsh chemicals and fumes.
“No matter how organic or how safe the chemical is, if you don’t wear something to cover your face and your nose and your mouth you’re going to inhale it,” said Cruz. “And you’re going to feel that burn in the back of your throat.”
The new study that tracked more than 6,000 people over 20 years finds that exposure to such products can make it as hard to breathe in the long run as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
And not just the industrial-strength stuff.
“No, we’re talking about household products. And then, of course, the commercial cleaners they’re going to use more concentrated,” said Alfred Aleguas, Director of TGH’s Poison Center in Tampa.
Aleguas says the study is very credible, and affects not just janitors, hotel workers or housekeepers, but any of us who regularly clean our own home.
“Over the course of a long time, doing this once a week, it can lead to a decrease in lung function,” he said.
Sophie Beesley, who operates Royal Maid cleaning service in South Tampa, says she already gives her workers gloves and masks, but the study results are troubling.
“I mean, obviously you do worry when things like this sort of come out,” said Beesley, who is always on the lookout for environmentally friendly alternatives that work.
“You know, it’s between being sensible about the products that you are going to use in people’s houses but also making sure that they are effective as well,” she said.
While there are organizations like Environmental Working Group that test and grade products for their safety, the study recommends using simpler methods like soap, water and a micro-fiber cloth to do a lot of the jobs we currently use cleaners for.
“See if there may be some less irritating things and potentially healthier cleaning agents,” suggests Aleguas. “Things like just white vinegar and water cleans very well.”
The study found women’s lungs were affected more than men, but they also said women tended to clean more often.
The conclusion? Next time, use a little more elbow grease to cut through grease and consider steering clear of those harsh cleansers.