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Infants exposed to cleaning supplies more susceptible to asthma, study finds

TORONTO — New research suggests infants who are exposed to cleaning products are more likely to develop asthma and wheeze later in life.

The study, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 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, though there appears to be no such connection to allergies.

“We can’t tell which brands are worse than others based on the data that we have, but we think that the findings are enough to tell the public that maybe they should limit their exposure or find ways to minimize the hazard that comes with these exposures,” Jaclyn Parks, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

Parks said previous studies have looked at exposure to these chemicals among people who clean for a living, but this is the first to look at exposure among infants. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network of Centres of Excellence.

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 lead to asthma and wheeze.

They suggest reading the labels of cleaning products and choosing those with fewer ingredients. They also recommend avoiding spray bottles, which carry a higher risk.

“Instead of spraying them, you should put them on a cloth instead,” Parks said. “You can also look into rinsing a surface after you’ve cleaned with it.”

The American Lung Association recommends against the use of cleaning products with volatile organic compounds, scents and other irritants; neither the U.S. nor Canada requires companies to list all the ingredients in their products.

Parks said she would like to see that changed and would like to see warning labels added to the bottles of cleaning products.

“I want people to question that idea that when they walk into a home and it smells like cleaning products, you shouldn’t necessarily go ‘Ooh, this house is so clean and great,’ she said. “I want people to smell that and think: ‘Oh OK, they just cleaned and these are pollutants in the air that I’m smelling.’”

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