What is Causing Asthma in Toddlers?

People believe that cleaning products would kill all the germs and will protect us but this belief needs some rethinking. A new study published today in Canadian Medical Journal (CMJ) has found that an early exposure to household cleaners can give asthma and wheezing to toddlers.

Many cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that include ammonia, bleach and fragrances. They cause chronic respiratory illness, allergies and headache. Never mix bleach containing products with cleaners containing ammonia because the gases created by this combination could lead to chronic breathing or even death.

Death rate from asthma ranges from 0 to 0.7 in 100,000 children.  Since 1990s the asthma symptoms have increased in children of low middle income countries.

Professor Tim Takaro, the study’s lead researcher and a clinician-scientist in Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences (SFU), says, “Most of the evidence linking asthma to the use of cleaning products comes from adults. Our study looked at infants, who typically spend 80-90% of their time indoors and are especially vulnerable to chemical exposure through the lungs and skin due to their higher respiration rates and regular contact with household surfaces.”

The data for the cohort study was collected from the parental questionnaire that included frequent use of 26 cleaning products used in homes of 2,022 children at the age of 3 months. Majority of children were white and weren’t exposed to smoke of tobacco by the age of 3-4 months. Data was collected between 2008-2015. The wirange dely used chemicals that were included in the study were dish washing soap, hand soap, surface cleaners, mirror and laundry soaps. The assessment was done by comparing the frequently used chemicals with less frequently used ones to check the association with wheeze, atopy and asthma at the age of 3 years.

The results showed that homes where cleaning products were used frequently, their children had higher odds of wheeze at the age of 3 years. Children with high FUS exposure had higher odds of acquiring asthma. Interestingly, females had higher ratio than male for all outcomes. No atopy difference was seen when these children were compared with children whose household chemicals were low.

Jaclyn Parks, lead author of the study, says, “These findings add to our understanding of how early-life exposure is associated with the development of allergic airway disease and identify household cleaning behaviors as a potential area for intervention.”

The exposure to chemicals can be controlled if people start reading labels on these products. Organic or homemade products could be used to prevent the excess chemical exposure.

The chemicals used in cleaning products can damage the respiratory epithelium by affecting inflammatory pathways causing bronchial hyper responsiveness and wheeze. This damage could worsen if the exposure continues for a long time. Parents need to take precautionary steps where young children are present and cleaning products have been used. One simple precaution they can follow is after using chemical cleaner it is better to keep the area ventilated.

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