Study links regular use of bleach for cleaning to serious lung conditions

Scientists looked at data from more than 55,000 female registered nurses in America

Study links regular use of bleach for cleaning to serious lung conditions

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Cleaning products such as bleach have been linked to serious lung conditions including bronchitis and emphysema.

Using disinfectants just once a week could increase someone's chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to scientists from Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm).

While cleaning products have previously been linked with asthma, this is believed to be the first time they have been connected to COPD - an umbrella term for conditions characterised by increasing breathlessness.

COPD is estimated to affect hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland.

For the newly published study, scientists looked at data from more than 55,000 female registered nurses in America, enrolled in the US Nurses' Health Study II, which began in 1989.

Researchers focused on nurses who were still working in healthcare in 2009, and had no history of COPD, following them until May this year.

During that period, 663 nurses were diagnosed with COPD.

Exposure to disinfectants including bleach, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol was assessed.

Each was associated with a raised risk of COPD of between 24 and 32%.

"To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to report a link between disinfectants and COPD among healthcare workers, and to investigate specific chemicals that may underlie this association," Dr Orianne Dumas, a researcher at Inserm, said.

"We need to investigate the impact on COPD of lifetime occupational exposure to chemicals and clarify the role of each specific disinfectant.

"Two recent studies in European populations showed that working as a cleaner was associated with a higher risk of COPD."

Dr Dumas will present the study's findings at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan on Monday.