Hidden Respiratory Dangers at Home

Jonathan Ilowite, MD

Household bleach may not lead to COPD, as recently reported in the lay press, but a number of respiratory dangers are present in many US homes.

A report presented at the September 2017 European Respiratory Society International Congress received a fair amount of publicity. The study was part of a large study of over 55,000 nurses in the US. The report looked at the association of disinfectants used by nurses to clean surfaces and COPD and found that risk was increased by 22% to -32%.1 This finding was picked up by the lay press with headlines such as “Regular use of Bleach Linked to COPD.”This interpretation is rather misleading for a number of reasons:The information in that report was presented at a meeting but has not been peer reviewed or published in a journal.It was a report on the regular use of hospital disinfectants among nurses--but not bleach in household products.There were confounding disinfectants used, as well as numerous other confounding variables that may not have been accounted for in this case control study.Nevertheless, the study piqued my interest in writing about hidden dangers in the home that might lead to serious respiratory illness. The list is not meant to be all encompassing, but merely my take on common dangers present in many homes in the US.


1. ERS International Congress 2017 Press Release 9/11/2017

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