A new first of its kind study suggests infants who are exposed to cleaning products are more likely to develop asthma and wheeze later in life than their unexposed counterparts.
Researchers used the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Cohort Study to determine the levels of cleaning product exposure for 2,022 Canadian infants in the first three months of their lives. The researchers then assessed the children at the age of three to determine if they had developed asthma, wheeze or allergies.
The researchers found an association between early exposure to cleaning products and a risk of asthma and wheeze (7.9 percent increased risk for children where cleaning products were used with high frequency during their infancy, compared to 4.8 percent of infants in homes with low use of these products). There appeared to be no such connection between cleaning chemical exposure and allergies.
Why would infant exposure to cleaning product chemicals trigger asthma later in childhood?
The researchers believe chemicals in these products can trigger the inflammatory pathways of the immune system and in turn damage the respiratory lining, which can later lead to asthma and wheeze.
The American Lung Association recommends against the use of cleaning products with volatile organic compounds, scents and other irritants. Unfortunately, neither the U.S. nor Canada requires companies to list all the ingredients in their products. Since there is no clear method of avoiding the most toxic chemicals in commercial cleaners at point of purchase, the best solutions include: Making your own DIY cleaning products–See our post here. There are also plenty of free recipes online for making effective do-it-yourself cleaning products; Choose organic or green cleaning products which likely contain fewer toxic chemicals than mainstream commercial cleaners. Additionally, opt for cleaners that are poured on cleaning cloths rather than spray cans and bottles (to reduce the amount of indoor air chemicals) and always keep fresh air flowing during cleaning and at least a couple hours afterwards until the chemicals have a chance to evaporate.
Journal Reference: Parks, J., et al. Association of use of cleaning products with respiratory health in a Canadian birth cohort, Canadian Medical Association Journal, (