A growing body of evidence suggests a clear correlation between use of toxic cleaning products in the home and the development of asthma in children.
It has long been known that children who grow up without exposure to bacteria tend to have weaker immune systems. However, it has been difficult to establish whether the cleaning agents used to kill bacteria themselves play a direct role in increasing the likelihood of developing asthma, as a range of others factors can influence its onset (e.g. family history, parents who smoke, or the dampness of the home). However, studies are now emerging which have been able to take all of these factors into account and to establish the link definitively.
Most famous and comprehensive is the ALPSACstudy, based at the University of Bristol, UK, which surveyed 14,000 pregnant women in 1991–2 and has followed most of them and their children ever since. In one strand of their research, they tracked mothers’ use of household chemicals while they were pregnant and when their children were young. They established that early life exposure to the chemicals contained in household cleaning products produces a 40% increased risk of developing asthma by the age of seven. In the 10% of families who use the chemicals most frequently, the children were twice as likely to suffer wheezing problems as the families where they were used least.
Many of these chemicals are used industrially at higher concentrations, where their impact on workers has been tested and frequently exposed as highly damaging over time. However, little or no testing has been done on their impact at the lower concentrations found in household products. And more than 1000 new chemicals are introduced every year, whose long-term effects are almost entirely unknown.
This growing body of evidence makes a strong case for seeking out non-toxic domestic cleaning products which will protect children from asthma and other illnesses.