The research published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine tracked 6,235 men and women, whose average age was 34 at the start and 54 at the end.
The participants in the study used cleaning products over the course of two decades, according to Newsweek, which reports the study found women who used the cleaning products regularly had a markedly decreased lung capacity.
Effects were comparable to 10 to 20 years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and applied to women cleaning at home or working as occupational cleaners.
Researchers also found increased rates of asthma among women who used the products regularly.
Cleaning was not significantly associated with lung function decline in men, according to the study's results, but an increase in diagnosed asthma was seen among men cleaning at home.
The study notes it may be that women appear more affected due in part to the greater number of women involved in the study. Of the 6,235 people studied, 53% were women and 44% had never smoked in their lives.
Also, of all the women in the study, 85% reported to be the person cleaning at home, while only 46.5% of men said they were.
Previous studies on chemical exposures, like tobacco smoke and wood dust, have found that less exposure in women is needed to develop illness.
The scientists advise using microfiber cloths and water for cleaning rather than chemicals, while some health advocates suggest using cleaning products that are labeled "allergy friendly" and are made with fewer chemicals.
The study concludes that its findings "suggest that cleaning activities in women, whether at home or as an occupation, may constitute a risk to respiratory health, not only in terms of asthma... but also in terms of long-term impact on lung function decline."
"Our findings advocate a need for further focus on preventing harmful exposure to the airways from exposure in cleaning activities," the study concludes.
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