We all want to raise our children specially infants in a safe environment. Part of that is maintaining a clean home that minimizes the risk of catching a cold or flu from contaminated surfaces.
However, there are common household cleaners that can pose a risk to your infant or child’s health.
Some cleaning agents may significantly increase the risk of lung conditions like wheezing or asthma, according to research.
Babies who have an early exposure to household cleaning products are associated with the development of childhood asthma and wheeze by 3 years of age.
“Society has been conditioned us to believe that a home needs to smell of cleaning products in order to be ‘clean’, but that’s not the case,” a researcher said.
Although previous research looking at the association between cleaning products and asthma focused on adults, this study specifically looked at infants.
Takaro and team analyzed data from questionnaires completed by the parents of more than 2,000 children exposed to cleaning products from birth to about 4 months.
All the children were participants in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Cohort Study, who were recruited from Canadian urban centers.
A majority of the children examined were white, hadn’t been exposed to tobacco smoke up to age 3 to 4 months.
Almost 70 percent didn’t have a family history of asthma.
The children were then examined at 3 years old to determine whether they had asthma, allergic sensitization or a recurring wheeze.
Significant association between exposure and asthma
The study found that children living in a home with a greater use of any cleaning product during a child’s infancy increased the odds of a recurrent wheeze, recurrent wheeze with atopy, and asthma diagnosis by 3 years of age.
The most common cleaning products used were dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, multi-surface cleaners, glass cleaners, and laundry soap.
The highest risk of respiratory issue was associated with scented and sprayed cleaning products.
Unsurprisingly, scented and sprayed cleaning products were associated with the highest risk of respiratory issues, according to the study findings.
Infants are more vulnerable
According to study, infants can’t say with certainty how much exposure at 3 months compared to 1 year affected the association with the respiratory issues observed.
Know that infants are especially vulnerable because:
- Their immune and respiratory systems are still developing.
- Infants spend the majority of their time indoors crawling and contacting many surfaces where cleaning products are used.
- Infants have relatively rapid respiratory rates. Their small size means their bodies are more affected by smaller exposures than older children.
Which products are safest?
According to a research, 53 percent of cleaning products they assessed contained ingredients known to harm the lungs.
About 22 percent contained chemicals reported to cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals.
There are many household cleaners. Some are name brand, some generic store brands.
A significant number even claim to be “green.”
But the only way to be sure which is safest is by reading the product label.
The EWG reports specific chemicals that should be avoided, including formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens.
Also, benzalkonium chloride, found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners, is known to cause asthma.
Sodium borate, also known as borax and boric acid, is a cleaning agent that can act as a hormone disruptor.
EWG specifies that some products you can simply do without, such as air fresheners that have unspecified fragrance mixtures or fabric softeners that can contain asthma-causing substances.