OSLO, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- A new study has shown that using cleaning agents can be as damaging for lungs as it is to smoke 10 to 20 cigarettes daily for 20 years, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK reported Friday.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bergen in western Norway, women who use cleaning agents regularly at home have reduced lung capacity over a long period of time in contrast to those who do not clean regularly.
Asthma was also more common in women who were exposed to cleaning agents -- 13.7 percent of cleaning workers and 12.3 percent of the women that cleaned at home, compared with 9.6 percent of those who neither cleaned at home nor at work.
During the research, 6,235 men and women were observed for 20 years from the time they were around 34.
While the cleaning agents apparently did not hurt men, they had a major negative effect on women's lungs.
"There were indeed very few men who worked as cleaners, only 57 people, which made it difficult to detect a possible difference," Oistein Svanes, the first author of the study, told NRK.
He added that it was not possible to compare cleaning and smoking with regard to how harmful they can be.
"Smoking increases, among other things, the risk of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease, something that washing does not do," Svanes said.
The researcher said he had expected cleaning agents to have a negative effect on people's health. Nevertheless, but was surprised at to what extent it harmed people.
"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.