Background: Asthma among professional cleaners is recognized as a common cause of new-onset and aggravated occupational asthma. Women are usually the primary persons responsible for cleaning their homes, but little information is available regarding the health impact of cleaning in the nonoccupational setting.
Objectives: To compare health effects of cleaning among asthmatic and nonasthmatic women who are the primary cleaners in their homes.
Methods: A 12-week, prospective, parallel-group study assessing the effects of cleaning on peak expiratory flow rates and upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms in women with and without asthma.
Results: Twenty-five women with asthma and 19 without asthma, ages 18 to 65 years, completed the study. No effect was observed on peak expiratory flow rates after cleaning between groups. Upper respiratory tract symptoms increased after cleaning for both groups, adjusted for chemical severity exposure index and duration of cleaning. However, the change in the number of lower respiratory tract symptoms (after cleaning minus before cleaning) was statistically significant for asthmatic patients compared with nonasthmatic patients (P = .01).
Conclusions: The study suggests that cleaning activities are associated with increased lower respiratory tract symptoms in asthmatic patients independent of chemical severity exposure index and cleaning duration. 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.