Asthma Risk 'Exacerbated
By House Air Fresheners'

By Jeremy Laurance
Health Editor
The Independent - UK
Air fresheners, furniture polish and household cleaners may increase the risk of asthma in young children, a study has found. Those exposed to fumes from common domestic products were up to four times more likely to develop asthma than those who were not.
Outdoor pollution from vehicle exhausts is known to exacerbate asthma in susceptible individuals but it seems that staying inside offers little respite. Evidence is growing that indoor pollution caused by household products and appliances may have similar effects.
In the latest study, researchers studied the levels of volatile organic compounds in the homes of 88 children with asthma and 104 without asthma who were treated in hospital at Perth, Western Australia.
The compounds are found in paints, floor adhesives, cleaning products, polishes, room fresheners, fitted carpets and cigarette smoke. Levels can be five to 10 times higher indoors.
The researchers took measurements twice within two weeks of the child's visit to the accident and emergency department in the winter, and again during the summer.
The findings showed levels of the compounds were significantly higher in the homes of children with asthma. The highest risks were for benzene, a constituent of petrol, followed by ethylbenzene and toluene.
The authors, from the school of public health at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, say in the journal Thorax that asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
Fitted carpets, soft furnishings, air conditioning and central heating are blamed for causing or exacerbating the condition. "In this context, the indoor environment could be of crucial importance since infants spend 80 per cent of their time indoors at home," they say.
Some of the compounds have cancer-causing effects, the researchers say, and further study is urgently needed. But the task is complicated by the wide range of compounds in use and the "continual appearance of new products" that release different combinations of compounds. A separate study showed infants exposed to fumes from gas heaters during their first year of life were 47 per cent more likely to develop asthma or wheezing.
Researchers from the University of Sydney, who examined the effect of indoor heaters on 627 children aged eight to 11, found they had no current effect on the development of respiratory conditions. But those who had lived at home with a heater of this type from birth were at increased risk. If their findings are confirmed, the researchers say the range of heaters used in households should be reviewed.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd



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