Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Risks Linked to Asthma Rise: Household Cleaners and More

Another great article by a favorite journalist, Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times online edition today discusses the links between asthma and household cleansers (plus other things your child might be exposed to).

Since I have always though the hygiene hypothesis was a bit ridiculous, I was glad to see this article! I am also very allergic to air fresheners and similar products, so it all makes intuitive sense.

Here are some of the highlights of the article:
For years the hygiene hypothesis has been used to explain stark differences in asthma rates around the world. In Western countries, asthma rates are about 50 times higher than in rural Africa, for instance. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that Westerners have less exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites, altering the immune response and increasing risk for allergic diseases.

But Dr. Harold S. Nelson, professor of medicine at the asthma and allergy specialty hospital National Jewish Health in Denver, says the hygiene hypothesis doesn’t fully explain rising asthma rates in the United States and industrialized countries. The incidence of asthma has doubled in the United States since the 1980s.

In a recent talk at National Jewish Health’s annual Pulmonary and Allergy Update conference, Dr. Nelson noted that lower levels of vitamin D, exposure to spray cleaning compounds, and a wider use of acetaminophen in place of aspirin have contributed to the asthma epidemic.

The concern with household cleaners is that the spray mist can be inhaled and irritate the lungs, increasing risk for asthma. The biggest culprits appear to be glass cleaners and air fresheners. A major European study of cleaning product use in 10 countries found that people who used the cleaners four days a week faced double the risk of adult asthma. Weekly use increased risk by 50 percent. Australian researchers have also found a link with household cleaning sprays and asthma in children.

Read the entire article here.

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