Nutrimento & nutriMENTE

Study links household cleaning sprays to asthma

By Redazione

Using household cleaning sprays and air fresheners has been linked to an increased risk of asthma by an international team of researchers. The findings have implications for clinicians, public
health authorities and the companies which manufacture these products.

The work, which was partly funded by the EU, is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Although previous studies have found increased levels of respiratory
problems in professional cleaners, this is the first study to demonstrate a similar impact in non-professionals.

The scientists drew on data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), a large-scale epidemiological study of airway diseases which covered over 3,500 people in 10 European
countries. A follow-up study, ECRHS II, involved assessments of asthma, wheezing and allergy and an interview during which participants were asked to report the number of times per week they
used cleaning products.

The researchers found that using cleaning sprays at least weekly was associated with an increased risk of asthma symptoms. Furthermore, the risk of developing asthma increased with the
frequency of cleaning and the number of different sprays used. On average people regularly exposed to cleaning sprays were 30% to 50% more likely to develop asthma than others.

The effect held true even when the scientists excluded homemakers and people who had worked professionally as cleaners. Products which seemed to have a particularly strong effect were air
fresheners, furniture cleaners and glass cleaners.

‘Our findings are consistent with occupational epidemiologic studies in which an increased asthma risk was related to professional use of sprays among both domestic and nondomestic cleaning
women,’ write the researchers.

They calculated that as many as one in seven adult asthma cases could be attributed to common spray use. ‘This indicates a relevant contribution of spray use to the burden of asthma in adults
who do the cleaning in their homes,’ the scientists state.

The study did not investigate how the products concerned could cause asthma, but the scientists put forward a number of possible explanations. These include the possibility that asthma is
partially irritant-induced; that sprays contain sensitisers that are specific to asthma; and that an inflammatory response is involved. The authors emphasise the need for future research to
focus on the extent and mechanism of the respiratory toxicity associated with the products.

According to the scientists, the use of sprays was common in all the countries covered by the study, and market trends show a general increase of these products in Europe. Furthermore, as
Kenneth Rosenman of Michigan State University points out in an accompanying editorial, maintaining a clean home is widely recommended as a key component of asthma management.

‘The ubiquitous use and exposure to cleaning products emphasise the importance of clinicians being aware of the potential for respiratory toxicity,’ he warns. ‘In addition, there is the need
for researchers to conduct further studies to elucidate both the extent and mechanism of the respiratory toxicity associated with such products. Finally, the industrial producers and
governmental regulators must improve the toxological testing of these products.’

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