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Long-Term Respiratory Health Effects of Cleaning

BY Douglas Cameron
Health & Safety

“Cleaning activities in women, whether at home or as an occupation, may constitute a risk to respiratory health” according to a Europe-wide study. 

The recent study observed that women who had either cleaned at home or worked in cleaning professions over a period of 20 years had accelerated decline in their lung function in comparison to women who had not engaged in cleaning activities over the same period.  The study showed no apparent decline in the lung function of men; however, this was attributed to the lower number of men employed in cleaning roles.  Cleaning products, both sprays and other agents were reported to cause respiratory symptoms, with most having an irritative effect on the airways.  The study equated the exposure to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for the same length of time.

Researcher and author of the report said: "The take-home message is that in the long run, cleaning chemicals very likely cause substantial damage to your lungs”.  "There are risks associated with using any chemical in the workplace and consideration has to be given to the type of chemical, the gender of the worker (especially important for pregnant workers), the amount of time exposed, whether any training is provided and/or protective clothing."

With the UK cleaning sector employing nearly half a million people, the need for the industry to focus on preventing and adequately controlling exposure of employees to harmful substances has never been greater.

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