"The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs", Øistein Svanes, a co-author of the study, said. The scientists compared the use of cleaning products for a 20 years period with smoking 20 cigarettes per day for 20 years.
The women who used cleaning products at least once a week presented a more damaged respiratory system in comparison to the male subjects.
However, there are few women who have never cleaned, and only a small group of men working as cleaners that the researchers were able to analyse.
Importantly, the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), the amount of air a person can forcibly exhale in one second, declined 3.6 milliliters (ml)/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
"While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact", explained senior study author Cecile Svanes, MD, PhD. Meanwhile, "cleaning was not significantly associated with lung function decline in men".
The research includes 6 000 participants, based on the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS).
Forced vital capacity (FVC), or the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, declined 4.3 ml/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
The researcher said he had expected cleaning agents to have a negative effect on people's health.
The researchers found that 12.3 per cent of women who cleaned at home and 13.7 per cent of women who cleaned at home developed asthma, compared to 9.6 percent for women who did not clean.
It's thought that this is down to the irritation of the mucous membranes of the airways caused by inhaling cleaning chemicals.
Experts say they cause damage to airways, speeding up the decline of our lungs as we age. His suggestion is to develop cleaning products that can't be inhaled, or use simpler cleaning methods.
"The easiest advice is to avoid using so many chemicals when cleaning for most tasks it is enough to use water and a microfiber cloth", Svanes said.