Use of common household cleaning products may increase the risk of infant asthma or other repository problems, according to the findings of a new Canadian study.
In a study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), researchers warn that children exposed to widely used cleaning products in the home, such as dishwasher soap or glass cleaner, are more likely to develop asthma, wheezing or allergic sensitization.
Researchers used data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Cohort Study, compiling responses from parental questionnaires that indicated the frequency of use of 26 household cleaning products in the homes of 2,000 children from birth to when they were three to four months of age to create a cumulative Frequency of Use Score.
The study analyzed the use to determine if frequent compared to less frequent use was linked to recurrent wheeze, asthma, or allergic sensitization diagnosis. Children where later clinically assessed at age 3.
The data indicated infant exposure to household cleaning chemicals during the first few months of life increased the risk of asthma and wheezing. Infants with the highest levels of exposure to cleaning products had a 37% increased risk of being diagnosed with asthma by age 3. They also had a 35% increased risk of developing a recurrent wheeze by that age, compared to children with the lowest exposures to household chemicals.
“Our findings add to the understanding of how early life exposures to cleaning products may be associated with the development of allergic airway disease and help to identify household behaviors as a potential area for intervention,” the authors wrote.
The most common household cleaning products parents reported using were dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, multi-surface cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.
Scented and sprayed cleaning products were associated with the highest risk of wheeze and asthma.
Females had a higher risk of developing asthma or wheeze than males. Furthermore, the link was found in children who did not have secondhand smoke exposure, so there is no overlap in risk.
Childhood asthma has increased over the past few decades and is now a leading cause of childhood chronic disease and admissions to the hospital.
Infants are vulnerable to the risk because they are especially sensitive to chemical exposures through the lungs and skin due to their higher respiration rates and regular contact with household surfaces. More so, they spend 80 to 90% of their time indoors.
Researchers speculate the chemicals in cleaning products may damage infants respiratory lining. The chemicals may trigger inflammatory pathways of the immune system, further leading to asthma and wheezing. The first few months of life are critical for the development of the immune and respiratory symptoms for children.
Parents can help reduce the risk by choosing household cleaning products that do not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and that are not sprayed, which allows them to spread through the environment more easily, the researchers advised.
Caregivers can also focus on adequately ventilating the home when household cleaners are used, especially around children. Using products without alcohol, scents, and that provide eco-friendly alternatives to harsh cleaners can also help reduce the risk to children.