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Kids who live in houses where cleaning products are used more frequently have a higher risk of developing asthma and are more likely to wheeze, a Canadian study found.
“The prevalence of childhood asthma has steadily increased over the past several decades and is now a leading cause of childhood chronic disease and admissions to hospital in developed countries, making it a priority for clinicians, researchers and the public,” the researchers wrote in their study, published on Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
For their study, the researchers followed more than 3,000 infants from pregnancy through childhood. Parents completed questionnaires that included environmental exposure, psychosocial stresses, nutrition and general health. These questionnaires were done at recruitment in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy, and when their children were 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months old. The study eliminated 1,242 participants because of incomplete data, leaving 2,022 for the final analysis.
“Most of the evidence linking asthma to the use of cleaning products comes from adults,” professor Tim Takaro, the study’s lead researcher and a clinician-scientist in Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, told Medical Xpress. “Our study looked at infants, who typically spend 80%-90% of their time indoors and are especially vulnerable to chemical exposures through the lungs and skin due to their higher respiration rates and regular contact with household surfaces.”
The most frequently used products were hand dishwashing detergent, dishwasher detergent, multisurface cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry detergents.
The study found girls were affected more than boys, and the risk of asthma was higher for kids in households with frequent use of liquid or solid air fresheners, spray air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, dusting sprays, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners compared with infrequent users.
“Our results do not prove causation,” the study states, “but it is possible that initial effects on the airway in early life from frequent use of cleaning products may be due to an inflammatory rather than an acquired allergic response. The potential for these common household products to prime the airway for future allergic response is an area of future investigation for researchers.”
The researchers recommend a precautionary approach to using household cleaners around infants and small children.
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