Saturday, December 10, 2022

Pregnant women exposed to disinfectants are more likely to have children with asthma, eczema: study

Children whose mothers regularly used disinfectants at their workplace during pregnancy were nearly 30 percent more likely to suffer from asthma and eczema, new research from Japan indicates.

The use of bleach and hand sanitizer has increased in recent years, both in medical settings and by the general public, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previous research has linked exposure to the chemicals to asthma and dermatitis in workers, but few studies have examined the effects of disinfectant use during pregnancy and the development of diseases in children.

Researchers at Yamanashi University in Japan examined data from nearly 80,000 pairs of mothers and children recruited in a Japanese child health study between 2011 and 2014.

They assessed whether pregnant mothers’ exposure to disinfectants in the workplace was associated with an increased risk of allergic diseases in their children by the age of three.

Women exposed to cleaning chemicals every day were at greatest risk, the study found.

The study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, found that their children’s risk for asthma was 26 percent greater, and 29 percent greater for eczema, than the risk for children whose mothers had never been exposed to disinfectants.

Although the study looked at exposure in workplaces such as hospitals between 2011 and 2014, the researchers pointed to a potentially large increase in the use of disinfectants during the pandemic.

Women who regularly used disinfectants were more likely to be nurses, doctors and hospital workers – who make up 20 percent of the study group.

Only 1.9 percent of the general study group reported using disinfectants daily, compared with 17.7 percent of workers such as nurses and doctors.

No significant associations between disinfectant use and food allergies were identified.

This is an observational study, the authors said, and as such cannot determine cause.

The authors also noted some limitations, including that the information on the use of disinfectants by mothers themselves was reported with specific disinfectants that were not identified. Diagnosis of allergic diseases in children has also been reported by mothers themselves.

The study ultimately concluded: “Our findings suggest that exposure [to disinfectants] during pregnancy has an effect on allergies in offspring, regardless of whether the mother returns to work when the child is one year old, and suggests an effect by exposure during pregnancy alone.

“It is of great importance to public health to consider whether prenatal disinfectant exposure is a risk for developing allergic diseases.”

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