Thursday 19 October 2017

How cleaning your toilet can cause lung disease

Using bleach and other common disinfectants to clean the toilet puts people at risk of fatal lung conditions. Stock photo: GETTY
Using bleach and other common disinfectants to clean the toilet puts people at risk of fatal lung conditions. Stock photo: GETTY

Henry Bodkin

Using bleach and other common disinfectants to clean the toilet puts people at risk of fatal lung conditions, research has suggested.

A 30-year study of more than 55,000 women found those who used the products just once a week had a 32pc increased chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The debilitating and often agonising illness, which can include bronchitis and emphysema, was linked to long-term use of quaternary ammonium compounds, known as "quats", which are found in everyday floor and surface disinfectants.

Products containing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and bleach were also associated with the disease, which is most commonly diagnosed in heavy smokers and those who have suffered long-term exposure to dust and pollution.

Disinfectant use has been associated with an increased risk of asthma. However, the new study by Harvard and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research is the first to identify a link between specific chemicals and COPD. Currently there are no specific health guidelines around the everyday use of bleach, but the research suggests people using it may be safer if they cover their airways.

The researchers called for enhanced guidelines to protect employees whose jobs involve regular cleaning, such as hospital workers.

"Some of these disinfectants, such as bleach and quats, are frequently used in ordinary households, and the potential impact of domestic use of disinfectants on COPD development is unknown," said Dr Orianne Dumas, adding: "It is important to investigate this further."

Researchers examined data from a mass study on female US nurses started by Harvard in 1989. They looked at those who were still working as nurses in 2009 but with no history of COPD, then tracked them until May 2017.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life