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Spray Cleaners May Up Asthma Risk

Study Sees Asthma Link for Home Users of Chemical Cleaning Sprays
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No Proof of Cause and Effect

The findings come as no surprise to environmental and occupational medicine specialist Kenneth D. Rosenman, MD, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

He points out that at least six previous population-based studies, as well as numerous case reports, have found an increase in asthma and respiratory illness among cleaning professionals.

"The unique thing about this study is that it expands the population at risk for asthma from exposure to these products," he tells WebMD. "We have known that workplace exposure can cause asthma. Now we know that anyone who uses these products may be at risk."

But a spokesman for a trade group representing manufacturers of commercial cleaning products says population studies like that of Zock and colleagues often suggest cause and effect relationships that don't exist.

"By its very nature, the cleaning process brings people into contact with known asthma causes and triggers, i.e. the biological contaminants (mold, insect parts and excrement, animal dander, etc.)," Bill Lafield of the Consumer Specialty Products Association tells WebMD. "Higher exposure to these contaminants could result in higher than normal occurrences of asthma."

Zock says people can minimize potential risks by using non-aerosolized cleaning products, by limiting their use of products containing bleach and ammonia, and by never mixing cleaners that contain the two chemicals.

In his editorial, Rosenman called on federal regulators to test the chemicals used in cleaning products for their potential to cause asthma.

The lack of such oversight has led to at least one recall of a carpet powder and spray specifically marketed to people with asthma, according to Rosenman.

"It turned out that this product caused asthma," he says.

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