By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, February 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A key to your baby's asthma risk may be as close as her laundry room.
Canadian research shows that a baby's exposure to household cleaning products in the first months of life is linked to a higher chance of asthma at 3 years.
Babies can be especially vulnerable because "they generally spend 80% to 90% of their time indoors, and are especially vulnerable to chemical exposures through the lungs and skin due to their higher breathing rates and regular contact. with household surfaces, "according to the main research study Tim Takaro. He is a medical scientist at the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
In their investigation, the Takaro group examined questionnaires completed by parents of more than 2,000 children who were exposed to household cleaning products from birth to 4 months of age.
The children were evaluated at 3 years of age for asthma, recurrent wheezing and "allergic sensitization."
The study could not prove cause and effect, but the researchers reported that babies with the highest levels of exposure to cleaning products had a 37% increase in their risk of being diagnosed with asthma at 3 years of age. These babies also had a 35% higher risk of developing recurrent wheezing at the same age.
The most common household cleaning products that parents reported they used were dishwashing soap, dishwashing detergent, multi-surface cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.
Scented and powdered cleaning products were associated with the increased risk of wheezing and asthma, according to the study published on February 18 in the CMAJ (Journal of the Canadian Medical Association).
What is the possible link? According to the researchers, the chemicals in cleaning products can damage the respiratory lining of babies by triggering inflammatory pathways of the immune system, which causes asthma and wheezing.
Changes in a baby's microbiome, the billions of healthy and useful microbes that live in the human body, can also play a role, they added.
"Most of the evidence that relates asthma to the use of cleaning products comes from adults," Takaro said in a magazine press release, so the new study adds valuable information.
An expert not related to the new study said the researchers tried to take into account other risk factors in their calculations.
The link between cleaning products and childhood asthma "was found in children who had no exposure to secondhand smoke, so the two exposures do not combine," said Dr. Len Horovitz, pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Cigarette smoke in the home is a known risk factor for asthma in children.
Barbara Keber is vice president of family medicine at Northwell Health in Glen Cove, New York. In reviewing the new study, he said he mimics "others that reveal similar findings in children over the past decade."
Keber said the study had some shortcomings: the majority of young people came from white and rich households, and it is not clear how much time they actually spent inside. In addition, he said, it is not feasible to do the type of lung test in children that is used in similar studies conducted with adults.
Finally, Keber said, "it is difficult to know if the symptoms will persist in childhood or adolescence and in adulthood, many children overcome their asthma symptoms."
But in the meantime, what can parents do if they want to minimize the potential risk?
According to the Canadian team, choosing household cleaning products that are not sprayed or that do not contain so-called "volatile organic compounds" could help minimize children's exposure.
For its part, Horovitz advises that "adequate ventilation should be observed whenever cleaning products are used near children. Products that do not contain odors, alcohol and chemicals (ecological) are alternatives to aggressive cleaning liquids."