New York, Feb 17 : Women working as cleaners or using cleaning sprays or other products regularly at home are likely to experience a greater decline in their lung function, researchers have warned.
The study found that the lung function decline in the women was comparable to smoking somewhat less than 20 packs a year.
However, the effect was not seen in men who cleaned, either at home or at work did not experience.
The forced vital capacity (FVC), the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, saw a faster decline of 4.3 ml/year in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
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.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, stated that the decline in lung function is attributable to the irritation that most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining the airways, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodelling.
"While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact," said Cecile Svanes, Professor at the University of Bergen in Norway.
"We feared 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," Svanes added.
The study also found that asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 per cent) or at work (13.7 per cent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 per cent).
The team analysed data from 6,235 participants whose average age was 34 when they enrolled and were then followed for more than 20 years.