Cleaning with bleach could lead to fatal lung disease

28th of September 2017
Cleaning with bleach could lead to fatal lung disease

Cleaning with bleach and other common disinfectants puts people at risk of fatal lung conditions, research has suggested.

A 30-year study concluded that people who use the products just once a week have a 32 per cent increased chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is usually associated with heavy smokers.

Researchers from Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research analysed data from a study of 55,000 US nurses that began in 1989. Subjects who were still working as nurses in 2009 - but who had no history of COPD - were contacted again and their health tracked until May this year. During that period, 663 were diagnosed with the condition.

The nurses' exposure to disinfectants was evaluated via a questionnaire that took into account their age, weight and ethnicity. Disinfectant use has previously been associated with an increased risk of respiratory problems such as asthma. However, the new study is thought to be the first to identify a link between COPD and quaternary ammonium compounds (quats).

"The potential adverse effects of exposure to disinfectants on COPD have received much less attention, although two recent studies in European populations showed that working as a cleaner was associated with a higher risk of COPD," said Inserm researcher Orianne Dumas.

COPD leads to a narrowing of the airways that makes it difficult to breathe. The term covers a range of conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The everyday use of bleach currently carries no health guidelines but the study authors hope this will be investigated.


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