TORONTO: Early exposure of babies to household cleaning products is associated with the development of childhood asthma and wheeze by age 3 years, a new study suggests.
"Our study looked at infants, who typically spend 80 per cent-90 per cent 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," said study lead researcher Tim Takaro from Simon Fraser University in Canada.
For the findings, published in the journal CMAJ, researchers looked at data from questionnaires completed by parents of 2022 children in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Cohort Study who were exposed to cleaning products from birth to age 3-4 months.
Participants in the CHILD Cohort Study were recruited from mostly urban centres in 4 provinces: Vancouver, BC; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Morden and Winkler, Manitoba; and Toronto, Ontario.
The children were then assessed at age 3 years to determine whether they had asthma, recurrent wheeze or atopy (allergic sensitisation).
The most common cleaning products used were hand dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, multisurface cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.
The researchers found an association between early exposure to cleaning products and risk of asthma and wheeze.
According to the study, scented and sprayed cleaning products were associated with the highest risk of respiratory issues.
The researchers hypothesize that chemicals in cleaning products may damage the respiratory lining by triggering inflammatory pathways of the immune system, leading to asthma and wheeze.
The modulation of the infant's microbiome may also play a role, the study said.
"These findings add to our understanding of how early life exposures are associated with the development of allergic airway disease, and identify household cleaning behaviours as a potential area for intervention," said study lead author Jaclyn Parks.
Reading labels on cleaning products and choosing those that are not sprayed or contain volatile organic compounds will help minimise a child's exposure and balance the risk associated with using cleaning products in an effort to achieve a mould-free, low-allergen home, the study said.