Go Ahead, Be Lazy Today: Cleaning Products May Be As Harmful To Your Lungs As Cigarettes

If you're lucky, you have President's Day off as a national holiday, which may get you thinking that it's time to clean out the fridge or scrub toilets with your precious leisure time. Good news if you're looking for an excuse (any excuse) not to do that: Fortune reports today that a recent long-term European study connected decline in lung function to cleaning product exposure.


The study at University of Bergen in Norway by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey "looked at lung function in 6,230 participants in 22 locations around the world. Participants answered questions about how often they used cleaning products and had their lung function measured." And women who cleaned professionally or were responsible for cleaning at home suffered more lung damage over the long term than women who did not clean as much. The same trend did not hold up for men, but Fortune points out that there were fewer men in the study.

The report concluded in a frightening manner:

This study suggests that also long-term respiratory health is impaired 10-20 years after cleaning activities. We found accelerated lung function decline in women both following occupational cleaning and cleaning at home. The effect size was comparable to the effect size related to 10 to 20 pack-years of tobacco smoking.


Most people know not to combine their acids and bleaches while cleaning, but this study suggests that some of these agents are toxic enough on their own. May be a good enough reason to postpone your President's Day chores—or to invest in some environmentally safe cleaners, if you're still feeling energetic today.