Infants exposed to chemicals in household cleaning products could develop asthma as early as three years of age, Canadian researchers warn in a new study published Tuesday, February 18.
Dust, cigarette smoke, paint, cleaning products... All of these substances contribute greatly to pollution in our homes, where we spend up to 90% of our time, points out the French Environment & Energy Management Agency .
According to a new Canadian study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, three-year-olds exposed to chemicals in cleaning products may develop asthma and recurrent wheezing more easily.
Led by Tim Takaro, a professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University (Canada), the study focused on young children under three years of age, who are most likely to spend time indoors and interact with surfaces that require cleaning (floors, furniture, etc.).
Data used by the researchers was sourced from the CHILD cohort study, which was conducted in Canada from 2008 and 2015, and involved 3,600 pregnant women and their children, who were followed for their first five years of life.
For this latest meta-study, researchers selected the responses of 2,022 parents to a questionnaire designed to provide information on their child's exposure to cleaning products in the first three-to-four months of their lives. The children were then assessed at age three to determine whether they suffered from asthma, recurrent wheezing or atopy (a genetic predisposition to allergies).
Scented sprays were particularly toxic
For the majority of children, who did not inhale other pollutants such as cigarette smoke before the age of three-to-four months (76%) or have a family history of asthma (65%), the responses suggested an increased risk of asthma and wheezing prompted by exposure to cleaning products, although no risk of atopy was reported.
Washing powder, dishwashing liquid, multi-cleaners, detergents, window cleaners... the list of incriminated products was long. However, the study did find that that those that were scented and/or sold in the form of sprays were potentially the most toxic.
According to the scientists behind the study, chemicals in these products could damage the respiratory mucous membranes, leading to the development of asthma and/or recurrent wheezing.
"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 behaviours as a potential area for intervention", point out the authors of the study.
The first step towards limiting indoor pollution in your home is to open the windows for a few minutes, and if possible to do so several times a day. It is also important to avoid products in the form of sprays and those that are scented to minimize the risk of harmful impacts.