Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Common Household Cleaners Can Trigger Asthma

Fume-Emitting Heaters Also Cited as Asthma Risks
By
WebMD Health News

Aug. 25, 2004 -- Two new Australian studies show that many common household cleaners and appliances give off fumes, which can potentially increase the risk of developing asthma in children.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the developed world. It has become more common in the last 30 years.

Most children who develop asthma have symptoms before they are 5 years old. It results in narrowing and inflammation of the airways in response to a trigger, which makes breathing difficult.

Public health professor Krassi Rumchev of Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, and colleagues, conducted the first study.

Rumchev's team studied 192 children aged 6 months to 3 years; 88 had asthma and 104 did not.

The children's parents answered detailed questions about their children's health and allergy tests were done on the children.

At the children's homes, researchers measured levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are fumes that can be found in items such as cleaning products, paint, furnishings, polishes, and room fresheners. These fumes can irritate the airways causing narrowing and difficulty breathing.

The researchers also recorded indoor temperature and household humidity, which can affect asthma-triggering dust mites. Some children with asthma have "allergic asthma" meaning that allergens such as household mites or mold can make symptoms worse. Measurements were taken twice -- once in winter and once in summer -- to account for seasonal changes.

Levels of indoor VOCs were significantly higher in the children with asthma. Three VOCs in particular stood out: benzene, which had the highest risk, followed by ethylbenzene and toluene.

"For every 10-unit increase in the concentrations of toluene and benzene, the risk of having asthma increased by almost two and three times, respectively," write the researchers in the journal Thorax.

"Domestic exposure to VOCs at levels [even] below currently accepted recommendations may increase the risk of childhood asthma," write the researchers.

It's not that easy to get VOCs out of your house because they're found in many household products. VOCs may also be embedded in the house itself as part of the paint, flooring, or furniture.

Scanning ingredient labels might not help, either. New products with different combinations of VOCs come out all the time, making research more complicated.

Many of the children with asthma had significant asthma risk factors besides VOCs: 77% had at least one parent with an allergy problem and 57% had at least one parent with asthma.

Seventy-seven percent of the asthmatic children had a genetic tendency to have allergic reactions such as asthma or allergies; 51% of the children without asthma had this tendency.

Indoor Heaters Strongly Linked to Asthma

Guy Marks, honorary associate professor of respiratory medicine at Australia's University of Sydney, and colleagues conducted the second study, also published in the journal Thorax

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Distressed woman
Slideshow
Woman holding an asthma inhaler
Article
 
Get Personalized Asthma Advice
Health Check
asthma overview
Slideshow
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Woman holding inhaler
VIDEO
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article