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Household Cleaning Products are Linked to Children’s Asthma

New research has shown that early exposure to irritants in household cleaning products is associated with poorer respiratory health in young children.

Infants are very vulnerable to chronic, low-level chemical exposure through their lungs and skin. This is because they have a higher respiration rate, spend so much time indoors and are in regular contact with household surfaces. The research showed that exposing them to cleaning chemicals can cause chronic inflammation of their respiratory lining. This can trigger asthma symptoms and worsen asthma control. Scented products and sprays were associated with the highest risk.

The results indicate that switching to non toxic household cleaning products reduces the risk of child asthma.

Research Overview and Key Findings

  • The most common cleaning product exposure was hand soap, washing up liquid, dishwasher detergent, multi-surface cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.
  • Scented and sprayed cleaning products were associated with the highest risk of respiratory issues – and may be important drivers of poor health outcomes.
  • Changing household cleaning behaviours is a potential area for intervention to avoid respiratory ill health in children.


  • Always read cleaning product labels. Be aware that manufacturers are not always required to list all ingredients in cleaning products.
  • Be aware that some “green” products may contain harmful substances, as these products are not always regulated.
  • Choose products that reduce the risk of child asthma, whilst ensuring high levels of hygiene and indoor air quality. i.e. products that: –  Do NOT contain volatile organic compounds.
     –  Do NOT contain fragrance. Never use air fresheners.
     –  Do NOT contain irritants.
     –  DO reduce mould and allergens.


    Research Reference: Association of Use of Cleaning Products with Respiratory Health in a Canadian Birth Cohort:  Jaclyn Parks BSc et al CMAJ 2020 February 18; 192: E154-61. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190819

Read the Canadian Medical Association Journal Research


Cleaning Products are Linked to Children’s Asthma
Written by Rhys Blakely, Science Correspondent; published in the Times Online on 18.02.20.

Respiratory lining may be damaged by chemicals in scented and sprayed cleaning products. Being exposed to household cleaning products early in life is linked to an increased risk of asthma and wheezing in young children, a study has suggested.

Researchers looked at more than 2,000 children and found that those most exposed to cleaning products such as washing-up liquid, dishwasher detergent, multi-surface cleaners, window cleaners and laundry detergent had about a 35 per cent greater risk of developing asthma or other breathing problems by the age of three, compared with those whose parents used cleaning products less often.

Scented and sprayed cleaning products were associated with the highest risk. The researchers suggest that chemicals in the cleaners may damage the respiratory lining by triggering the immune system and causing inflammation.

They also suspect that the substances may alter a child’s microbiome, the bacteria found in the body that can play a significant role in health.

Mixing cleaning products could increase the risk of asthma, they warn in a study published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Nearly 5.5 million people in the UK receive treatment for asthma, according to Asthma UK, including about 1.1 million children. The NHS spends about £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with the condition and it is the most common reason for urgent admissions to hospital in children and young people in England.

In England and Wales 1,422 people died of asthma in 2018, some 8 per cent more than the previous year.

“Most of the evidence linking asthma to the use of cleaning products comes from adults,” Professor Tim Takaro, of Simon Fraser University in Canada, who led the latest study, said.

“Our study looked at infants, who typically spend 80 to 90 per cent of their time indoors and are especially vulnerable to chemical exposures through the lungs and skin due to their higher respiration rates and regular contact with household surfaces.”

The research asked parents to complete questionnaires on how often they used cleaning products. The children were then assessed at age three to determine whether they had asthma, wheezing or heightened immune responses to common causes of allergies.

The researchers also took into account the parents’ history of asthma, household income, exposure to smoking, pet ownership and visible mould.  Groups including the American Lung Association recommend using only products that do not have volatile organic compounds, fragrances, irritants or flammable ingredients. Air fresheners should be avoided outright.