Workplace and home exposures to cleaning products constitute an emerging health issue. The aim is to address the potential adverse role of exposure to cleaning agents on asthma in private homes and healthcare workers. Regarding healthcare workers, recent publications showed that they may be exposed to high level of cleaning products. As a cause of concern, they underestimated their exposures and appeared as a high risk group for asthma. Regarding home cleaning, two studies have published on this topic and suggested a deleterious role of the frequent use of cleaning sprays on asthma activity and incidence. One of them suggested a possible avoidance of spray use by women with asthma.
More recently, in a nested case-control survey on asthma of French women from the ‘Etude Epidémiologique auprès des femmes de la MGEN’ (E3N study), we investigated the association between self-reported weekly use of cleaning products (evaluated as previously) and current asthma among 570 women (235 with current asthma and 335 without asthma; 68 years, 59% never smokers). A positive association was suggested between weekly use of at least one spray and current asthma (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] adjusted for age, diploma, body mass index and smoking status: 1.45 [0.94–2.24], p = 0.09), with a significant association in women without cleaning help (1.86 [1.04–3.33]). Avoidance of polluted places was significantly more frequent in women with current asthma who had at least two symptoms.
Domestic exposure to cleaning sprays may represent an important public health issue especially in women and it may be important to limit their use. Female hospital workers are exposed to numerous cleaning products at high risk for asthma. Selection bias may be important for both domestic and workplace exposures. More work is needed to identify the underlying mechanism (allergic or non-allergic) and to have accurate estimates of cleaning agents.