Scented house-cleaning products may raise the risk of asthma in toddlers

  • A new study suggests that high exposure to everyday cleaning products is connected to an increased risk of asthma, particularly scented products.
  • Children who had been exposed to the most cleaning products between ages zero to three were 37% more likely to have asthma.
  • Chemicals in household products tend to be under-regulated in America.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Asthma is the most common chronic condition children can have, and new research suggests that being exposed to everyday cleaning products may increase their risk of contracting it.

The research, a study of 2,022 children, rested on interviews with parents about how often they used 26 common household cleaners like dishwashing soap, detergent, and glass cleaners, during their babies' first three to four months. 

The study found that by the time the children were three years old, the ones who'd been exposed to the most cleaning products were 37% more likely to have asthma than those who'd been exposed to the least cleaning products.

Along with a higher risk of asthma, 49% of children who had been more exposed to the most cleaning products were also likely to have chronic allergies, and 35% of those children were also likely to have chronic wheezing.

The biggest offenders were scented consumer products, which posed the biggest risk to young children's still-developing respiratory and immune systems. 

Most previous research on the effects of these cleaning products has been done on adults, even though young children who spend most of their time at home are especially vulnerable.

The study, which used data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, noted that most of the participants in the study were white, and most did not have a parental history of asthma.

Parents should swap fragrant sprays for rags, soap and water

"A clean home should have no odor at all," study author Tim Takaro, of Simon Fraser University, told Insider.

While many parents think these cleaners are healthy, especially when they're marketed as such, Takaro advises parents to "think about your cleaning in relationship to your baby's health."

For a safe home, Takaro recommends that parents don't spray products into the air, don't use fragranced products, and use more rags, soap and water. Parents should also ventilate after cleaning before child returns to area and wipe cleaned surfaces with water.

Chemicals in household products tend to be under-regulated in America

Chemicals in household products tend to be under-regulated in America. US manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients in their cleaning products, and even products advertised as 'natural' or 'green' are not necessarily safer.

In the European Union, new laws are requiring that cleaning product labels must warn consumers about possible toxic ingredients.

In a commentary published along with the study, Dr. Elissa Abrams of the University of Manitoba, who was not involved in the study, described the research as "a growing call to action on the role of cleaning products in irritating the airways of young children." She added that further research is needed to examine the long-term effects of exposure to these cleaning products.

The American Lung Association recommends using only cleaning products that "don't have volatile organic compounds, fragrances, irritants or flammable ingredients" and that air fresheners should be avoided altogether."

Read more:

Kids with asthma may struggle in school

8 signs you might be having an allergic reaction to something and when to see a doctor

Anxiety, depression tied to more ER visits with childhood asthma

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