New research has found that the use of cleaning sprays can cause significant damage to women's lungs - but the same effect doesn't appear to apply to men.
Researchers discovered that women who cleaned on a regular basis using cleaning supplies are more likely to experience a greater decline in lung function than the ones who didn't clean.
The drop in lung function in both groups was comparable to smoking a pack of 20 cigarettes for between 10-20 years, the Daily Mail reports.
The same trend was not found for men who regularly used cleaning products.
While previous studies have looked at how cleaning chemicals affect people's health in the short-term, this is one of the first to explore their long-term impact. Meanwhile, "cleaning was not significantly associated with lung function decline in men". The number of men who worked as occupational cleaners was also small, and their exposure to cleaning agents was likely different from that of women working as cleaning professionals.
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.
The researchers said people should be careful choosing how they clean the surfaces in their homes.
The authors suggest that the reduction in lung capacity happens because cleaning chemicals irritate the mucous membranes lining the airways, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways.
"However, when you think of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all".
The researchers tracked the health of 6,000 adults over a 20 year period, looking at data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.
"In the long run, cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs", said the lead author of the study, Prof Oistein Svanes.
Most of the women studied said they were the primary cleaners in their homes, compared with less than half of the male participants who reported being the cleaners in their own.
"The easiest advice is to avoid using so many chemicals when cleaning for most tasks it is enough to use water and a microfiber cloth", Svanes said. His suggestion is to develop cleaning products that can't be inhaled, or use simpler cleaning methods.