Cleaning Is Hazardous to Your Lungs and Overall Health

In an article published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine it was shown that women who regularly clean homes show a marked decline in pulmonary function. The study looked at 6,230 persons participating in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey over a period of 20 years.

Normally lung function declines as we age but women who were professional home cleaners, and who used cleaning sprays, declined at a far faster rate than women who did not clean at home or professionally. For unclear reasons in this study cleaning did not appear to effect the measurements on men. The study authors were quick to point out that there were very few men in the study making their conclusions on men less meaningful.

The authors looked at two main parameters, Forced Vital Capacity (the maximum amount of air exhaled after a maximum inspiration) and Forced Expiratory Volume in one second. They noted that decrease in Forced Vital Capacity is associated with decreased long term survival in patients without known pulmonary disease. They additionally noted a slight increase in the development of asthma in the home cleaners.

The authors postulated that cleaning products were “low grade irritants” and chronic exposure could lead to remodeling of the airways and resultant decline in pulmonary function. While reading this article I thought about how infrequently we read labels on the products we use to clean our homes, cars and elsewhere before using them. How often do we actually follow the health advice listed on the bottle? Should we be wearing N95 respirator type masks when using cleaning sprays and working in sparsely ventilated areas? What about children and their exposure? Should we be using these products around them and or our pets? Is it the actual spraying that exposes cleaners or does the products effects linger well after use?

These are all questions that few, if anyone, looks into or answers but certainly need to be addressed now that these findings have been published.

What is SPF “Sun Protection Factor” and What is the Daily UV Index?

SPF is a laboratory measure of the efficacy of sunscreen and is defined as the amount of ultraviolet radiation needed to produce sunburn on protected skin relative to unprotected skin. It is a measurement of redness or “erythema” and is mainly a measure of UV-B radiation exposure not UV-A (the more damaging type of radiation to deep skin structure) exposure.

The SPF of a product is not related to the duration of UV radiation exposure. The relationship between SPF and UV-B radiation protection is not 1:1 or linear meaning that an SPF 30 does not protect you for twice as long as an SPF 15.  For example, an SPF of 15 can filter 94% of the suns UV-B radiation while a SPF of 30 will filter 97%. UV radiation dosage depends on both how long you are out in the sun and how intense the UV radiation is.

The daily UV index is a measure of the level or intensity of UV radiation. It is presented on a scale of 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high). The US National Weather Service and the US Environmental Protection Agency provide this data which is presented on most weather reports and published in newspapers and on line daily.