Housework could pose health hazards, study says

LONDON Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:14pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Housework might be bad for your health, according to a study suggesting that tidying up as little as once a week with common cleaning sprays and air fresheners could raise the risk of asthma in adults.

Other studies have linked these types of products with increased asthma rates among cleaning professionals but the research published on Friday indicates others are potentially at risk as well.

Exposure to such cleaning materials even just once a week could account for as many as one in seven adult asthma cases, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"Frequent use of household cleaning sprays may be an important risk factor for adult asthma," Jan-Paul Zock, an epidemiologist at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, who led the study, wrote.

Asthma is an inflammation of the airways with symptoms that include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from the condition.

Using data collected from 22 centers in 10 European countries, the researchers studied more than 3,500 people over a nine-year period to see how many developed asthma and whether cleaning could be a cause.

Two-thirds of those in the study who reported doing the bulk of cleaning were women and fewer than 10 percent of them were full-time homemakers, the researchers said.

The study found that the risk of developing asthma increased with the frequency of cleaning and the number of different sprays used but on average was about 30 to 50 percent higher in people exposed to cleaning sprays at least once a week.

While air fresheners, furniture cleaners and glass-cleaners had the strongest effect, the researchers said the study did not determine what biological mechanism sparked the increase.

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