Domestic cleaning sprays linked to increased asthma risk in women

Study findings suggest that women who use at least two types of cleaning spray on a weekly basis to clean their homes may be putting themselves at an increased risk for asthma.

Researchers found greater use of household cleaning sprays was associated with a higher asthma symptom score and more current asthma and poorly-controlled asthma among women.

"Our results also suggest a selection bias in the use of domestic sprays which may mask or underestimate the associations between sprays and asthma phenotypes," note Nicole Le Moual (Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Paris, France) and team in the European Respiratory Journal.

Previous studies have reported an excess risk for asthma in cleaners working in offices and hospitals, or employed in private houses. However, data are limited on the associations between the use of cleaning products in spray form at work and at home and risk for asthma.

The researchers collected detailed information regarding domestic exposures, especially to sprays, and asthma phenotyping from the Epidemiological Study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma between 2003 and 2007 for a total of 683 women (mean age 44 years). Of these, 244 had current asthma (defined as reporting asthma attacks, asthma treatment, or asthma-like symptoms in the previous 12 months).

They found that women who cleaned the home on at least 1 day each week were 1.85 times more likely to have a high asthma symptom score - two or more asthma symptoms - than to have a null score (no symptoms). This was after adjusting for age, smoking habits, body mass index, and occupational exposure.

Moreover, women who used at least two types of cleaning spray at least once a week were 2.5 times more likely to have a high asthma symptom score than a null score, whereas women who used just one type of spray weekly were no more likely to have a high than null score.

Women who used two spray types weekly were also 1.7 times more likely to have current asthma than no asthma, and twice as likely to have poorly-controlled asthma as to have no asthma. No such associations were seen for use of one spray weekly, nor indeed for cleaning the home weekly.

"The present work suggests that domestic exposure to cleaning sprays, for which increasing use has been observed, may represent a public health issue in females," comment the authors.

"Whereas occupational exposure is controlled and monitored, this is not the case for the general consumer. Furthermore, homemakers have no training on the potential toxicity of the products used," they say. "In conclusion, more research is needed on hazards related to domestic use of cleaning sprays."

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