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Relax and just breathe… take a deep breath… catch your breath…
So many of the phrases in our daily life have to do with breathing. That’s because your lungs are vital to your relaxation, your heart function, your brain function, your health and your life.
But, did you know that lung diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide?
And, while it’s easy to think of respiratory conditions like COPD, lung cancer and emphysema as “smoker’s problems,” just being a non-smoker does not put you in the clear.
In fact, new research is revealing a common household practice that does the same damage to your lungs as almost 20 years of smoking…
Small particles seep into your lungs
Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed data from 6,235 participants in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey to compare the lung health of people who clean regularly (either professionally or in their own home) to those not engaged in cleaning.
The participants, whose average age was 34 when they enrolled, were followed for more than 20 years. That’s 20 years of data!
They found that:
- The amount of air, a person can exhale (a marker of both lung capacity and health) declined faster each year in both women and men who clean at home and who work as cleaners than in those who do not clean.
- Asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 percent) or at work (13.7 percent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 percent).
- Lung function decline in the women working as cleaners was “comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 pack-years.”
What does this mean?
Cleaning your house or working as a professional cleaner can harm your lungs at an equal level to long-term smoking.
The cause behind the damage
But, why is that?
According to the scientists, it’s due to the regular use of cleaning sprays or other cleaning products. They say that “Such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”
Think of it this way…
When you spray that cleaner on your countertop or mirror, you’re inhaling small particles of cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the surfaces of your homes, not your lungs.
When you look at it that way, the damage they can do to your lungs isn’t so surprising after all.
In fact, the researchers say that the decline in lung function is caused by the irritation that most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining your airways, which over time results in persistent changes that destroy your vital lung tissue.
So, what can you do?
The take-home message according to scientists is that all those chemicals are usually unnecessary. Instead, use microfiber cloths and water to handle your cleaning needs and avoid the damage to your lungs brought on by chemical cleaners.
For more tips on safe cleaning, here are 8 ways to rid you home of dust, dirt and toxins this spring — without compromising your health.
The burden of lung disease — European Lung White Book
Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline, study finds — American Thoracic Society