Category Archives: Lifestyle

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Olympic Gold Medalist Lizzy Yarnold Celebrated With Night Of ‘Knitflixing’

Olympic Skeleton athlete Lizzy Yarnold would be forgiven for hitting the town hard after bagging gold at the Pyeongchang Games on Saturday, but she had other ideas.

The 29-year-old spent the evening watching Australian crime drama ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’ on Netflix, while practising her knitting.

Once the activity of choice for our grandmas, knitting has seen a popularity boom across all ages in recent years, with a 2017 report from Mintel indicating a 12% rise in women doing some sort of needlecraft as a hobby in the past two years. The hobby has been linked to stress relief and boosting wellbeing, as well as improving the nation’s knitwear game. Now, there’s even a blog dedicated to knitflixing – aka watching Netflix while knitting – while more than 3,600 photos have been tagged #KnitFlix on Instagram. 

Inspired by Lizzy’s unabashed love of the hobby, we asked knitting fans on Twitter whether ‘knitflixing’ is the ultimate way to have a night in. You answered with a resounding “yes”. 

Knitting enthusiast and journalist Alicia Melville-Smith said she recently created a new jumper while watching several different seasons of a Netflix show. “Netflix binges are the main time I get most of my knitting done. Only rule is that it can’t be a subtitled programme because my brain can’t manage both,” she said.

Meanwhile graphic designer Jill Chapman said she finds it hard to sit still without her hands being busy, so always has a project in front of her if she’s having a night in with a programme. “I have a separate pile for with or without wine because wine and the wrong project can have dire consequences!” she joked.

Political commentator Jane Merrick told us she knits different items depending on the nature of the show she’s watching. “If I’m watching something engrossing, eg on Netflix, I knit a very easy thing like a scarf, but for BBC Newsnight which only really requires listening, I do fair isle [a technique pictured below], for which I need to follow a pattern closely,” she said. 

Merrick is such a fan of knitting while watching TV, she’s even launched her own blog Newsknit, dedicated to celebrating the past time. “It is the best way to relax at the end of the day – there is a rhythm to it which requires just enough concentration to distract from any worries but not enough to make it too tiring,” she said.  

Here’s what some of our other readers had to say about knitflixing. One thing’s for sure, it’s not just Lizzy Yarnold doing it.

 

 

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Cancer Infertility In Middle Age Matters

Cancer infertility can happen as a side effect of cancer treatment, regardless of your gender or age. What if cancer infertility happens at a time in our lives, when due to age, we may have already decided not to have any (more) children? Is it such a problem and loss?

Cancer is about many things and loss is one of them, if not THE key issue.

Losing your fertility, irrespective of your gender, is a big moment in your life, even if it happens naturally. If it happens as a side effect of cancer treatment then it is another loss to content with – whether you have children or not.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer just after my 47th birthday. At that age I had no intention to become pregnant. I felt it was too late and a risk, for several reasons. I was not exactly at peace with it, and I was not yet pre-menopausal. But that was my position then.

I did not know I could lose my fertility from chemotherapy. It was not mentioned when I was first diagnosed and the treatment plan explained. Perhaps assumptions were made, like that…

  • I did not care, because of my age or because of the cancer.
  • The priority at that moment is treatment and survival.
  • Or perhaps the medical staff I saw did not talk about fertility at the point of diagnosis.

As I opted for a second opinion and referral to another hospital, I will never know.

And second-time around, it was different.

The diagnosis and treatment conversation was repeated. Then the breast cancer surgeon asked me whether I was planning on having children. I was surprised – “No,” was my answer. Back came a short reply which I remember as something along the lines of, “Because we could try and save some eggs.”

I was too overwhelmed with everything else to give this exchange much thought – until much later.

A few months later, while I developed early menopause and could not differentiate between my body responding to that or to the cancer drugs, my body and my life had been turned upside down. I could no longer relate to or remember a sense of ‘normal’.

There was no reassuring trust in me, my body, the world – that everything would go back to ‘normal’. Not the ‘old normal’.

Would there be a ‘new normal’? Would I want it? How long before that would be taken away from me?

In all this confusion, mental and emotional pain and anguish the waves of loss, bereavement, anger and fear were huge and deep.

I was losing my identity and my dignity.

But in all this and even now, that one simple question by the breast surgeon stands out, “Do you want to become pregnant?”

He had treated me with respect and dignity, just the way a person should. That’s what we deserve.

With cancer as with so many other life-changing illnesses we lose choices. Yet, he had asked for my opinion.

He offered me a choice, and would have taken that into consideration. I had a say.

It was respectful and it was kind. I will never forget that. And I do hope I will be treated with respect and kindness again and again, cancer or no cancer. Because I do deserve that, just like you do, too.

Losing our fertility in later life is still a change and ending.

It is something we need to find closure for. It impacts us, our relationships and those around us. Our loss may also be the loss of others. It may cause insecurities, loss of confidence, sadness and anger. We may not get the understanding and support we need.

Now, some years later, it does not hurt so much. But there are moments, when I feel like an outsider, when women talk about pre-menopause and menopause.

Chemotherapy fast-tracked me. And some may think, ’Lucky you, at least you did not have years of discomfort, physically and emotionally.′ And sometimes I might think, give me that any day.

But what has happened, has happened. We need to find a way of living with it, that does not defeat us and drag us down.

Cancer infertility like any other loss is something we need to work through and get through, while the memory and pain will always remain with us.

Because losing your fertility in a way that was unexpected and unprepared for, that is a real loss, whatever your age, whatever your gender, whatever your circumstances.

Karin Sieger is a London-based psychotherapist, writer and houseboat dweller. She specialises in support with transitions, endings and the emotional impact of cancer. For more information visit KarinSieger.com. To receive Karin’s newsletter please sign up here.

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Paul O’Grady And RuPaul Have Taught Me The Most Valuable Life Lessons

My friends often tell me that the people that inspire and motivate me, and who’s work continues to make me strive to make my own career bigger and better, are not quite the “legends” that most people look up to. Apparently, Cheryl Tweedy, Lauren Conrad, Carrie Bradshaw and The Charmed Ones, don’t quite cut it. I mean, fair enough, two out of the four are fictional but their character traits were to be admired: Believe in love, the road ahead isn’t easy but keep focussed and every now and then you’ll be floored.

The two inspirations of mine, that my friends and I all agree on, are people that I look up to not only as fellow LGBT people but as people in a similar line of work to me: Paul O’Grady and RuPaul.

I don’t mean to trivialise the LGBT movement or its history, nor do I want to ignore the important people of the past who have helped move us forward to a more equal place so I can live in a time and a country where I am equal in the eyes of the law, but history (along with RE and PE) was never my strong point and I’d hate to get a fact wrong during such an important month.

What I thought would be nice is to write from the heart about what I saw when I watched these two people that I have looked up to, who have helped pave a path for people like me in my career, who have been part of the LGBT movement, and who made me brave enough to dream in a world that hasn’t, and sometimes isn’t, always so accepting.

As a child of the 90s, I vividly remember Paul O’Grady’s Lily Savage all over the airwaves here in the UK. From the Big Breakfast, to Blankety Blank; from the evenings with to The Lily Savage Show. This was a drag artist from working class Birkenhead jumping over all the barriers and making it as a regular fixture on mainstream TV. For me, it was reassuring to see this level of success also being from a low-income working class council house, and as an LGBT person, realising that anything is possible if you put in the years and have the audacity to believe not only in your dreams, but in who you are.

Lily was this straight-talking, no-nonsense sensation in my eyes. She stood up and she made not only my mum howl but my dad too. Although I was quite young, I think that’s when I realised that my parents would accept me for who I am. Even now, all these years later, O’Grady’s Savage persona still influences; she went hell for leather with her opinions, talking to her “mainstream” (what a fucking word) audience about everything including her nights at The Vauxhall Tavern or with leather queens in the Black Cap. It made me realise that trying to write a witty joke that would appeal to all about Nectar Cards or filling up the car with petrol was not the thing for me and my career. What I learnt from Lily was that using your authentic voice with your audience is not only the right thing to do, it’s what they enjoy.

I’m not sure if Paul realised what an effect Lily had on the UK audiences. I mean, I’m sure he did, he’s smarter than I ever will be. But I think going up there – everyone knowing that he was a drag artist, everyone laughing and accepting – did wonders for the LGBT community, and for me at least, it showed that being yourself, or a version of yourself on stage, is a great way to feel accepted.

Then there is Ru. First of all through Drag Race and some of their stories, I realised how difficult some LGBT people really have it in the world and by these queens being so brave and telling their story on a show that has huge mainstream success, I think it has built our allies immensely.

Both Ru and Paul have inspired me in simple ways. One lesson is owning who you are. I often worry about being a feminine camp man but because of those two I am not only brave enough to leave the house as me but to take it to the stage as well. And even though it shouldn’t be a worry, sometimes, when you rock up to a gig in Grimsby it can be a concern. But I say ‘fuck it’ and own it.

The final thing they taught me is about education. Not everyone has gone through what we as LGBT people go through – that outsider feeling that I think most of us have felt at some point. I often felt in school that I wasn’t one of the girls but also wasn’t one of the lads, so wondered about where I fit. Both of these brilliant men have made me brave enough to tackle LGBT rights on stages around the country and discuss it just like brilliant comics discuss feminism and race, and I hope in my own way, I’m helping the LGBT community in my own way.

My final thought is Ru’s biggest message, the one I tell myself after getting rejected from that job, or by that boy, or being told that “we already have a gay on the bill that night” – the things that knock our confidence – and that message is: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love somebody else.” And on the flip side, I also believe in Lily’s: “tell ’em to fuck off”.

Stephen Bailey tours ‘Can’t Think Straight’ until May 2018, including 3 nights at London’s Soho Theatre from 3rd – 5th May. For details see: www.stephenbaileycomedy.co.uk/tour 

This week we are hosting a mini-series from our blogging community on the LGBTQ+ figures who have been the biggest inspiration for them. 

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Ikea Is Going To Launch A Vegan Hot Dog, This Is Not A Drill

Ikea has announced plans to develop a vegan hot dog, which it hopes to roll out in the UK and the rest of Europe from August onwards.

The Swedish furniture giant said it’s currently testing a vegetarian hot dog in its Malmö store in Sweden. The new offering is part of the company’s ambition to include more plant-based ingredients on the menu.

While the hot dog has been touted as ‘vegan’ by some publications, Ikea confirmed that this particular prototype isn’t as they can’t guarantee at this stage that all additives are 100% vegan.

That said, a spokesperson revealed: “The aim is that the final product will be made from a vegan recipe”. 

A post shared by IKEA Food Services AB (@ikeafoodservices) on

Michael La Cour, managing director at IKEA Food Services AB, said in a statement: “As always when we develop new products we have to secure that it is delicious and that our customers like it.

“There is no point in creating a more sustainable option for our customers if it is not tasty. Every year 660 million people enjoy the IKEA Food offer and we see this global reach as an opportunity as well as a responsibility to serve food that is good for people and the planet.

“With the new Veggie hot dog we can inspire and enable customers looking for a quick tasty bite in the IKEA Bistro to choose a plant-based more sustainable option at an affordable price.”

Next stop, vegan meatballs?

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Internalised Biphobia – What Not To Tell Yourself

Recently, I wrote an article outlining tips on how I deal with internalised biphobia when I am at low points in my sexuality. So, I got wondering why we deal with internalised biphobia. I looked at where my internalised biphobia stems from. Because when I know, I know what to not tell myself any more. It’s dangerous to live with that level of self doubt, but there are things that you can catch yourself thinking sometimes. And when you do, call them out. Tell them no. So stop telling and asking yourself these things:

Am I sure?

I think for me, this is the one I get caught in most. I know for me that this one comes from the time between me realising my sexuality and coming out. When I realised that coming out was a thing I felt I had to do (for a variety of reasons), every day I questioned if I was sure I needed to. And the answer was never certain. In part, as I was very nervous, but also I simply just wasn’t ever entirely sure. I am still not. But it is OK. A fellow bisexual friend I have said they question themselves a lot and that they hate the uncertainty of it. And if there is something like this you aren’t sure about, that can affect you. For me, it’s very much about what happens if it is just a phase? What if there was no point in coming out to anyone? The uncertainty is awful. And, if you are someone who is very fluid in their sexuality, as I am, what do you do then? Because your questioning then can go through the roof. I dislike the uncertainty.

But I have learned how to answer this question. All I can say to myself is, “Yes. You are valid, and you are real, and you are bisexual”. Most of the time, that is enough to shut down that thought process. Sometimes, it isn’t. And you just have to say, “No. But This is how I am feeling today, but tomorrow, I’ll review myself again and see.”

But I am not equally attracted to genders.

Lord…. no. I am absolutely not. I am (generally but I am fluid) much more attracted to women than men. This does confuse people. And I think that this comes very much from a society thing. I wonder if it genuinely comes from the fact that bisexual representation in our society isn’t that great. For me, in television, the only thing I have seen that has had really good and accurate bisexual representation was Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. There is even a song he uses to come out and the character is so lovely and genuine and an older guy, so it honestly challenges most of the stereotypes along with it. But it is the only thing I have ever seen in which a character clearly states that they are bisexual and challenge stereotypes. It is one of the greatest things to watch.

The point is, many bisexual people do not have a clear equal attraction to different genders. But for some reason people think that we do. However lots of bisexual people have unequal attractions to a variety of genders and are fluid in their attractions. So you can be bisexual and not always be equally attracted to just two genders.

Just A Phase

Again, this is a big worry for me. And it ties again into the uncertainty of this sexuality. And this is the one that I think that is truly truly biphobic. Because it is just a form of bi erasure, and saying it is not real. I think this maybe comes from the fact that a lot of people who are out as gay, originally came out as bisexual. And as they later come out as gay, people make the assumption that it is a stepping stone to coming out ‘completely’.

Well, for some people it might be. It might be that they are still questioning and want to just keep their options open. It might be that they use it when they come out to give the people they come out to a level of hope that they might still be able to be in a straight relationship. Some people see it as something that exists when you’re young but you grow out of.

All I say is that I hope it’s not a phase. It’s taken a lot for me to get to this point of comfort in my sexuality, including powerful struggles with my mental health. So if it is a phase, I will be very very annoyed. But, even if it is just a phase, what means that it isn’t real in this moment? I know right now that I am bisexual. Maybe in a year’s time, I’ll have gone through more self discovery and realised that maybe it will no longer be how I identify. But does that make my feelings right now any less valid? Because it’s what I feel right now that matters.

Internalised biphobia will make you unhappy. Try and give yourself some bi love, and appreciate yourself in all your bi-beauty.

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Olympian’s Dad Cycles 10,000 Miles To Watch Son Compete In Winter Games

The parents of Swiss freestyle skier Mischa Gasser cycled a staggering 10,000 miles to watch their son take part in the winter Olympics.

Gasser’s dad, Guido Huwiler, 55, and his step-mum, Rita Ruttmann, set off from Zurich on their bikes and passed through 20 countries in total. They set off on 2 February 2017 and arrived in PyeongChang the week before their son was set to compete. 

A post shared by Ausgebüxt (Guido Huwiler) (@guidohuwiler) on

According to Yahoo Sport, the pair passed through Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Due to restrictions at North Korea, they had to hop on a flight to stay on schedule. Discussing the epic bike ride, Olympic skier Gasser said: “My dad is crazy. He was a skydiver as well in his younger age. It’s just what they have to do.”

A post shared by Ausgebüxt (Guido Huwiler) (@guidohuwiler) on

On Huwiler’s blog, where he’s charted their trip, the former architect revealed he quit his job in May 2016 because he felt “that something was missing” and that “what I’m doing no longer serves what I really want”.

Huwiler and Ruttmann have become full-time ‘adventurers’, traveling the world by bike, on foot and – where needed – other forms of transport.

“I want to inspire you, give ideas and also encourage you to approach and implement your own adventure, your own journey or your vision of life,” he wrote on his blog.

To keep up to date with the couple’s adventures, check out Huwiler’s Instagram.

A post shared by Ausgebüxt (Guido Huwiler) (@guidohuwiler) on

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When You Cycle With Friends, It’s About The Journey Not The Destination

I recently went on a ride with a friend whose cycling ability far exceeds mine. He’s called Henry and he’s a racing club cyclist. He often rides up to 100 miles at a time on the weekend, he’s raced in time trials, cycled at events in France, and is currently planning a bike tour of Europe. I invited him for a bike ride with me – despite the gulf between our abilities – because I thought it’d be a good way to catch up. 

We cycled 10 miles across London and stopped midway to have a coffee and croissant. We went on a quieter route so we could cycle side-by-side and chat. We laughed when I blamed my bike – which is a lot heavier than his Brompton – for being the reason I couldn’t get up the hill (it definitely was). And we successfully navigated around the busy London traffic. 

As a beginner, I obviously experienced many benefits of our ride, too. When my bike started squeaking (which would usually send me into a mild panic), he told me it was nothing to worry about. I didn’t have to work out the route we were going on because he knew the roads better than me, and I could quiz him while we were riding about the dos and don’ts of city cycling (“Are we actually allowed to cycle in bus lanes?” “Yep”). 

Surprisingly, there wasn’t one point where I noticed how much more experienced he was than me. This was probably also largely down to the fact he didn’t bring along his super speedy road bike or come dressed head-to-toe in lycra (phew!), but also because he could appreciate the joy of a casual ride on the weekend away from time trials and speed and any challenge of the sort. It was a mutually-enjoyable ride. I say that with confidence, because I asked him. 

“It was great to potter around London on our bikes, I really enjoyed our ride,” he told me (when I pressed him). “Contrary to the mega-mile club rides I do on my road bike, relaxed cafe trips like this are a great social event without the need to don the Lycra.”

Our bike ride was a social event – it was an outing in itself, not just a means to get from A to B.

Since I started cycling, I’ve been consciously using my bike more to get me places – to meet my friends at brunch, to my friends for dinner in the evening and I have (once) attempted to cycle to work. But on that Sunday morning, the ride itself was the main event. It wasn’t about reaching the destination, but enjoying the ride for everything it was in its simplicity: a way for two friends to catch up who have a shared interest of cycling. And coffee. 

After the ride, I felt so content. It motivated me to want to get out more with friends on my bike – and I know I’m not alone in this. Thomas Curran, an assistant professor in sport psychology at the University of Bath researches the motivation and emotion of sport psychology. He tells me cycling stands out among many other sports to be one that reaps the social benefits.

“There’s a number of different things people are willing to get off the sofa for and cycling seems to have captured a lot of people’s attention, a lot of people seem to be enthused by it,” he said. “One of the key reasons is that it offers an opportunity for people to share in an activity in a non-threatening way. You can have different skill levels and [if you’re in a cycling club] you can sit where you want from the fittest to plodding along at the back on a Saturday. There is always a range of ability in cycling and it’s in a safe space.” 

For the first time, I pondered the idea of a cycling club (I’m still pondering, if you were wondering). I know for a fact friends for life are born from these cycling clubs and I’m intrigued to find out more about them. So help me out: Are you in a cycling club? Do you run one? What do you love about it? I’d love to hear from you – email me amy.packham@huffpost.com. 

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How To Do A Sit-Up Without Straining Your Neck

Sometimes when you do a sit-up, it can feel like you’re giving your neck more of a work out than your abs. If this is true for you Ben Alldis, an instructor at Core Collective, says it’s sign you need to re-evaluate your method. 

“When you perform a sit-up, your spine undergoes compression, putting pressure on the discs between your vertebrae. Neck strain is often caused by poor technique and involves too much neck flexion, ” he told HuffPost UK. 

With that in mind, we asked the two coaches for their top tips on how do to a sit-up properly so they’re no longer a pain in the neck – literally. 

Personal trainer Dom Thorpe said you may be more prone to neck strain if you’re new to sit-ups as “the neck muscles simply aren’t used to holding a contraction for that length of time”. 

“Whereas your stomach muscles contract and relax during the exercise, your neck muscles tend to remain contracted throughout in order to keep your head supported. Sustained contractions like this cause the typical burning sensation in the muscles due to lactic acid build up,” he said. 

To limit your experience of neck strain, Thorpe recommended building up the amount of sit-ups you do per session gradually over time rather than aiming for 50 on your first go. 

Alldis recommended following these steps to engage the core, reduce pressure on the neck and complete the perfect sit-up:  

Step 1: Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Bend your knees and plant your feet about hip-distance apart. Place your hands on the back of your head, where it attaches to your neck. Point your elbows to the sides of the room. Keep your hands light on the back of your head and the elbows open wide. Never tug or fold your neck. 

Step 2: Exhale and pull your belly button in toward your spine as you gently raise your torso by bending your hips and waist. Lift up until your torso is just inches from your thighs. Your head, neck and abs should be in one straight line. If your neck is coming up first, make the change.

Step 3: Inhale and control your return to the start position to complete one repetition.

While Thorpe said the risk of serious injury is low if you occasionally feel neck strain during a sit-up, Alldis said you shouldn’t ignore the sensation if it’s a regular occurrence. 

“Over many repetitions, the compression being put on the discs between your vertebrae can result in swollen or herniated discs, which can be very painful,” he said. “Any pain experienced while exercising can be a warning sign that something is wrong, and the neck pain associated with the movement should not be ignored.”

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Bare Arms On TV: Let’s Judge Women On Their Ability, Not Their Appearance

“I haven’t been naked in years,” declared 52-year-old Carrie Fisher in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking, “I haven’t been sleeveless in twenty!” Upper arms are one of those parts of the body many women don’t dare to bare after 40, and after the controversial comments about bare arms by former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, women will be under even more scrutiny from the body-shamers.

Bizarrely, Campbell aimed her remarks at female TV presenters who wear sleeveless dresses alongside suited male counterparts, saying she felt it was “demeaning” to the women. “Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!” She declared on Twitter, linking to a tweet by the Informed Opinions organisation, which advises public speakers to “Keep your arms covered.” Ironically the organisation itself states its mission is to “amplify women’s voices for a more democratic Canada.” It seems, however, that they have scored a spectacular own-goal. 

Personally I’ve always pitied female breakfast TV presenters. While their male counterparts can loll about on the sofa, man-spreading comfortably in their suits, the women adopt curiously stiff poses, presumably lest they show a roll of tummy fat and are accused of being pregnant. Which of course is exactly what happened to journalist and presenter Steph McGovern recently – the 35-year-old business presenter for BBC Breakfast was accused of being pregnant on social media, but laughed it off admirably, tweeting “I am not with child. I am with pot belly.” It’s a sad indictment of attitudes to women’s bodies that instead of listening what Steph had to say about the Carillion collapse, some viewers were far more interested in her body.

Why are women judged so much for the way they look? The BBC’s own ‘Ron Burgundy’, John Humphrys, once introduced Mishal Husain on Mastermind as a “newsreader and a very good-looking woman”, going on to ask “Are you doing your job only because you are good-looking?” Meteorologist Sian Lloyd received endless comments about her dress sense, while Michael Fish just showed up in a bog-standard suit to no comment whatsoever. One Australian male TV anchor wore the same blue suit for a year and nobody noticed (”No one gives a shit” he concluded); veteran Giles Brandreth has appeared on TV for years wearing hideous jumpers yet is regarded as some kind of ironic fashion hero.

Yet what’s most serious about Kim Campbell’s comments about women’s bare arms is that they lead us along a dangerous path. When we equate covering up with women’s bodies with measuring their intelligence and the respect they deserve, it not only undermines women but, at its extreme, legitimises the belief that women who dress in a certain way, who reveal their flesh, are “asking for it”.

What women everywhere are really asking for is this: Judge us on our ability. Not our appearance.

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Cleaning Chemicals ‘Likely Cause Substantial Damage To Women’s Lungs’, Study Finds

Women now have the perfect excuse to offload more housework onto men. According to new research, women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning products at home experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean.

However the study, published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, did not identify the same trend among men. 

Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analysed data from more than 6,200 participants with an average age of 34 at the start of enrolment, who were followed for more than 20 years.

“The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs,” lead study author Øistein Svanes said.

“These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfibre cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.” 

According to study author Cecile Svanes, while the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals, such as sprays, on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, “we lack knowledge of the long-term impact”. 

“We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age,” she said.

The study looked at the amount of air participants were able to forcibly exhale over certain time periods to analyse lung function, known as 
“forced expiratory volume” and “forced vital capacity”.

The results found that compared to women not engaged in cleaning:

  • Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) declined 3.6ml per year faster in women who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml per year faster in women who worked as cleaners.

  • Forced vital capacity (FVC), or the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, declined 4.3 ml per year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml per year faster in women who worked as cleaners.

The study also found asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3%) or at work (13.7%) compared to those who did not clean (9.6%).

The level of lung impairment was surprising at first, said Svanes. “However, when you think of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all.”

The authors speculate that the decline in lung function is attributable to the irritation that most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining the airways, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways. 

The study did not find that men who cleaned, either at home or at work, experienced greater decline in FEV1 or FVC than men who did not. The researchers took into account factors that might have biased the results, including smoking history, body mass index and education.

However, they noted the study did have some limitations as it included a small percentage of women who did not clean at home or work. These women, the authors wrote, might “constitute a selected socioeconomic group.” The number of men who worked as occupational cleaners was also small, and their exposure to cleaning agents was likely different from that of women working as cleaning professionals.

In light of the results, the researchers recommended using microfibre cloths and water instead of harsh chemicals for most cleaning purposes. 

Svanes added that public health officials should strictly regulate cleaning products and encourage producers to develop cleaning agents that cannot be inhaled.

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