Spring clean vs pavement puffing?

9th of May 2018 Article by Lotte Printz
Spring clean vs pavement puffing?

ECJ’s Scandinavian correspondent Lotte Printz brings bad news from Norway: “cleaning can be
as harmful to your lungs as smoking,” yet ends on a positive note.

Spring is in the air. And so are small particles from cleaning agents. So if you’re planning a good spring cleaning soon in your own home, you might want to think twice. At least as to how you do it.

A recent study from researchers from the University of Bergen, Norway, has shown that household cleaning products are as bad for lung function as smoking. Cleaning sprays are the main sinners according to the report. The tiny particles from sprays “stay” in the air for hours, unavoidably you breathe them in and eventually they find their way to the bottom of your airways.

The research, based on ECRHS (European Community Respiratory Health Survey), was carried out on more than 6,000 cleaners over a 20-year timespan and they were found to have as poor lung function as people who have smoked 20 cigarettes a day for the same amount of time.

Substantial damage

“The take-home message is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs,” said Øistein Svanes, who worked on the report.

In addition, the study found that cleaners had a 40 per cent higher risk of developing asthma than other people. Especially if female, which most cleaners still are.

The news is not all bad, though. It may have put a smile on people’s faces in the transportation sector which has long been considered the top source of air pollution.

Talking to The Daily Telegraph, Alastair Lewis, professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at York University in the UK said: “People have assumed that the consumer sector is relatively unimportant as a contributor to air pollution. I think this is a very helpful reminder that there’s much more to pollution than road transport. Since the VW scandal people have had something of a one-track mind, focusing on vehicles, though cars have actually become far cleaner in recent years.”

To look on the bright side in the cleaning business, bad news also brings good tidings. When a “wrongdoer” has been found and a product has been criticised, focus is being shifted: businesses will usually start looking into developing cleaner, less harmful, products. Which will hopefully help cleaners of the future.

Besides if you, as an individual, have a passion for soap and water… why not stick to just that?
“These chemicals are usually unnecessary. Microfibre cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes,” stressed professor Cecilie Svanes, who led the Bergen team.

Using liquid cleaners instead of sprays and keeping our homes well ventilated, are other pieces of advice to follow.

So before you decide to pack up your passion for soap and water, perhaps taking up pavement puffing instead, do hold your breath. There’s no need to skip a good spring cleaning just yet. Just choose your method wisely.

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