Children are more likely to develop asthma if they were exposed to household cleaning products as newborns, a study released Tuesday by several Canadian universities has found.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that if babies up to three months old lived in homes where cleaning products were used frequently, they had a higher chance of getting asthma.
The research team on the study included experts at Simon Fraser University; the University of British Columbia; McMaster University; the University of Alberta; the University of Manitoba; the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Researchers studied data from 2,022 children and their daily, weekly and monthly exposure to 26 types of household cleaners, including dishwashing and laundry detergents, cleaners, disinfectants, polishes, and air fresheners. This data is different than previous research about asthma and household cleaners because that is typically done looking at adults, said study lead researcher Dr. Tim Takaro.
The study looked at three-year-olds in homes that used household cleaners often and determined they had a 10.8 per cent change of developing a “recurrent wheeze,” compared to 7.7 per cent for those babies in homes that did not heavily use household cleaners.
A heightened immune response to common allergens was at three per cent with household cleaners, compared to 1.5 per cent without and asthma was at 7.9 per cent, compared to 4.8 per cent without the cleaners.
Researchers said family history and early life exposure to tobacco smoke, which are known to increase the likelihood of asthma, were controlled for in the study.
But not all cleaning products were created equal, researchers found.
“The risks of recurrent wheeze and asthma were notably higher in homes with frequent use of certain products, such as liquid or solid air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, dusting sprays, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners,” said lead author Jaclyn Parks, a graduate student in the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU.
“It may be important for people to consider removing scented spray cleaning products from their cleaning routine. We believe that the smell of a healthy home is no smell at all.”
Parks said the study showed how important the first few months of a baby’s life are in terms of its immune and respiratory system development.
By identifying hazardous exposures during infancy, preventive measures can be taken to potentially reduce childhood asthma and subsequent allergy risk,” she said.
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