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We often view cleaning our home as a ‘healthy’ activity, necessary for removing germs and ensuring a comfortable and livable home environment. However, using chemical-heavy cleaning products too often can do far more harm than good.

If you are an avid house cleaner, then you already have likely been in a situation where you spray down your bathroom, only to realize the smell of chemicals is so strong, you have to leave the room. The reason for this is that many cleaning supplies contain dangerous chemicals that can rob you of your oxygen and harm your body.

In a recent study, Norwegian researchers followed 6,000 women for over 20 years. They intended to understand how cleaning products affect respiratory health over a larger period. To do this, they observed both professional cleaners and homeowners.

Their findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Each year, our lung function declines naturally on its own, beginning in our 20’s. However, some things can cause a deeper impact to happen faster.

In the period that the study took place, researchers discovered that exposure to cleaning chemicals more than a few times a week could impact the lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes each day for 10-20 years.

If you are someone who cleans for a living or likes to clean your house pretty regularly, there are steps, according to the Environmental Working Group, that you can take. Here are a few of their tips:

1. Avoid spray cleaners. If you must use them, spray onto a cloth, rather than a surface, to prevent excess inhalation.

2. Try using simple soap and water, baking soda, or other natural alternatives to clean with. Vinegar is a great option for this.

3. Use abrasive sponges or microfiber tools in place of excess chemical-laden cleaning products.