Study Finds Cleaning Activities May Be Harmful to Women with Asthma

Cleaning activities may be associated with increased lower respiratory tract symptoms in women with asthma according to a study published this month in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

Jonathan A. Bernstein, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology/Allergy Section, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, and colleagues, reported that "women with asthma should be routinely interviewed as to whether they clean their home and cautioned about the potential respiratory health effects of these activities."

Asthma affects approximately 20 million people in the United States, but asthma mortality rates are higher among women compared with men. Women are usually the primary persons responsible for cleaning their homes.

This 12-week, parallel-group study compared health effects of cleaning among asthmatic and non-asthmatic women who are the primary cleaners in their homes. Investigators observed a statistically significant change in the number of lower respiratory tract symptoms for asthmatic patients compared with non-asthmatic patients, although no effect was observed on peak expiratory flow rates after cleaning between the groups.

Authors noted that "women in both groups exhibited increased upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms in response to cleaning agents rated mild in toxicity, suggesting a subtle but potentially clinically relevant health effect of long-term, low-level chemical exposures."

The authors conclude that "longer, prospective studies of nonprofessional household cleaners are needed to determine whether there is an association between household cleaning agent exposure and the development of asthma."

The report is available at www.annallergy.org.

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