Asthma link to household cleaning products
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemical irritants found in a variety of cleaning and DIY products including solvents, paint, polishes and glues. They are known to be triggers for many people with asthma, so the researchers set out to test the theory that they might also cause asthma to develop in young children.
Scientists in Perth studied a group of 192 children aged 6 months to three years, 88 of whom had been diagnosed with asthma in an emergency department, and 104 of whom did not have asthma, and who acted as a control group.
Parents from both groups were asked for information about their children's health, the home environment and family history of asthma, allergies and smoking. The children were also tested for allergies.
The researchers took air samples from the homes of all children in summer and winter and tested them for concentration of VOCs. After taking into account other factors known to influence the development of asthma, they found that the higher the levels of VOCs in the home, the more likely the children were to have asthma.
Analysing their results, they identified benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene as the compounds most likely to increase the risk of developing asthma.
'Early infancy is a critical period in the development of a child's lungs and immune system,' commented Dr Matthew Hallsworth, Asthma UK's Research Manager. 'We already know that the development of asthma most likely depends on a complex interaction of genetics and environmental exposures during this period in a child's life.
'This study reminds us about the importance of indoor air quality and how it may affect the health of our lungs, especially for young children who can spend a large proportion of their time indoors,' he added.
'More research such as this should lead to an increased awareness of the asthma risk factors that may play a role in early childhood, and could bring us closer to being able understand how to prevent the development of asthma.'
The research is published in Thorax journal.
For advice and information on asthma, call the Asthma UK Adviceline (08457 01 02 03) or email an asthma nurse specialist.
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