Lung disease warning: This common household product could be linked to COPD risk

The disease causes on average, 24,000 deaths each year in the UK.

The main cause of COPD is smoking – and the condition usually affects people over the age of 35 and who are, or have been, heavy smokers.

However new research has revealed using bleach - a disinfectant cleaning product - could increase a person’s chance of developing COPD.

A study by Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) found that using the products just once a week could increase a person's chance of the disease by nearly a third.

Scientists analysed data from more than 55,000 nurses in the US, looking at exposure to specific disinfectants, including bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds (quats), which are often used to disinfect surfaces such as floors and furniture.

All of these were associated with an increased risk of COPD of between 24 per cent to 32 per cent in the study.

Previous studies have linked certain chemicals to conditions such as asthma.

"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,” said Dr Orianne Dumas, a researcher at Inserm.

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The experts said more work is needed to clarify the impact of using disinfectant in the home.

Dr Dumas said: "In particular, we need to investigate the impact on COPD of lifetime occupational exposure to chemicals and clarify the role of each specific disinfectant.

"Some of these disinfectants, such as bleach and quats, are frequently used in ordinary households, and the potential impact of domestic use of disinfectants on COPD development is unknown.

"Earlier studies have found a link between asthma and exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants at home, such as bleach and sprays, so it is important to investigate this further."

Symptoms of COPD include a chronic cough which can last for months, wheezing, shortness of breath, chronic chest pain and coughing up blood.

As part of the research, scientists looked at 55,185 female registered nurses enrolled in the US Nurses' Health Study.

Researchers looked at those nurses who were still in a nursing job and with no history of COPD in 2009, and then followed them for approximately eight years until May 2017.

During that time 663 nurses were diagnosed with COPD.

The nurses' exposure to disinfectants was analysed via a questionnaire and other factors which could alter the results - such as age, weight and ethnicity of the subjects - were taken into account.

The findings are set to be presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan today.