The following article was written by Bridget Gardner for the Green Pages online magazine. It is a short article but highlights some latest findings with regards to volatile organic compounds and childrens asthma.
27 October 2008
Rates of childhood asthma have increased by 400% since the 1970s, and there is a clear connection between children’s breathing problems and their mothers’ use of household cleaners.
These findings were released earlier this month from the Children Of The 90s project by the University of Bristol, England. The study of 7,019 families, found that children in the 10 per cent of families who used the chemicals most frequently, were twice as likely to suffer wheezing problems than the families where they were used least.
The 11 most common products used by pregnant women in the study, were disinfectant, bleach, carpet cleaner, window cleaner, dry cleaning fluid, aerosols, turpentine or white spirit, air fresheners, paint stripper, paint or varnish and pesticides or insecticides.
“We are seeing what appear to be effects on lung function, either while the baby is still in the womb or after birth,” Dr Andrea Sherriff said. “We have since followed children to the age of 8, “she continued. “The effects seem to persist.”
The team concludes:
“These findings suggest that children whose mothers made frequent use of chemical-based domestic products during pregnancy were more likely to wheeze persistently throughout early childhood, independent of many other factors.”
The study’s lead author, Alex Farrow of Brunel University’s school of health sciences and social care, said more than 40% of families used air fresheners regularly. “People may think that using these products makes their homes cleaner and healthier, but being cleaner might not necessarily mean being healthier” he said.
This conclusion supported findings from a study conducted by Professor Peter Sly of the University of Western Australia, and a World Health Organisation collaborator with the Telethon Institute for Child Health in Perth. They tested homes for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and found that children in homes with higher levels had more chance of developing asthma. VOC’s are released from household chemicals such as disinfectants and air-fresheners.
“We have increasing evidence that everything from the pesticides used on roses to the bleach in the bathroom impact badly on the developing lungs of unborn babies but this evidence has yet to change behaviour in Australian homes,” Prof Sly told a European respiratory conference in Berlin this month.
“We need some strong public health messages around this so parents realise what they are doing. Natural products your grandmother would have used, like bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice and vinegar, are going to be much better for developing foetuses”.