Cleaning the bathroom too often may sound absurd considering the filthy stuff that happens in there (and the resulting gobs of germs). But a recent study published by the European Lung Foundation warns that regular exposure to common toilet-bowl disinfectants like bleach and hydrogen peroxide increases your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a potentially fatal lung disease that progressively makes it tougher to breath. Great!
To come to this conclusion, the researchers analyzed data from 55,185 registered nurses enrolled in the US Nurses’ Health Study II, which began in 1989. They found that nurses who used disinfectants to clean surfaces at least once a week had a 22 percent increased risk of developing COPD, and this disease is no joke: COPD already claims around 25,000 lives each year in England alone.
The researchers also analyzed specific disinfectants: Glutaraldehyde (a strong disinfectant used for medical instruments); bleach; hydrogen peroxide; alcohol; and quaternary ammonium compounds (which are mainly used for low-level disinfection of floors and furniture). All were associated with an increased risk of COPD of between 24 percent and 32 percent. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide are, of course, go-to bathroom cleaners.
This isn’t the first study to point out the hazardous nature of household cleaning products, either: A 2014 study dubs exposure to such products “a major public health issue” involved in adverse health effects of the skin and the respiratory tract, including a link between bleach—everyone’s favorite germ annihilator—and asthma.
None of this means you should neglect cleaning your bathroom, but it’s important to be smart about it: Either swap the bleach and hydrogen peroxide for “green” products found at your local market, or use this DIY sanitizer:
“Mix a half cup of water, two tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda in a large bowl (make sure it’s big enough to accommodate the bubbling that results from mixing vinegar and baking soda).”
Most importantly; however, know that your skin is designed as an excellent barrier against microorganisms, meaning even if disease-causing bacteria like E. coli were lingering in your bathroom, it’s highly unlikely they’ll find a way to enter your body. Thanks to this handy human trait, cleaning the bathroom more than once a week is completely unnecessary.