Early exposure of babies to household cleaning products like laundry soap and dishwasher detergent is associated with the development of childhood asthma and wheezing by three years of age, according to a study which may lead to better early interventions against the respiratory conditions.
The study, published in the journal CMAJ, assessed data on more than 2000 children part of the CHILD Cohort Study which assessed kids exposed to cleaning products from birth to age three-four months, and re-evaluated them when they were three years of age to determine whether they had asthma and recurrent wheezing.
“Our study looked at infants, who typically spend 80-90 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 Tim Takaro, the study’s lead author from Simon Fraser University in Canada.
The findings revealed an association between early exposure to cleaning products like dishwashing soap, multisurface cleaners, and laundry soap, and the risk of asthma and wheezing.
According the researchers, scented and sprayed cleaning products were linked to the highest risk of respiratory issues.
Majority of children were white, had not been exposed to tobacco smoke up to age 3-4 months, and did not have a parental history of asthma, the study noted.
The researchers hypothesise that chemicals in cleaning products may damage the respiratory lining by triggering inflammation, leading to asthma and wheezing.
They also believe that the community of beneficial bacteria living in and on infants may be altered by exposure to cleaning products.