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Occupational disinfectant use during pregnancy tied to eczema, asthma in offspring


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Pregnant women with frequent occupational exposure to disinfectant are at significantly increased risk of having children with eczema and asthma, new findings from Japan show.

While the study, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, doesn’t pinpoint a mechanism to explain the heightened risk, there are some theories, said lead author Reiji Kojima, MD, of the University of Yamanashi, Japan.

“The microbiome is said to be involved in the development of allergic diseases in children and it is possible that the microbiome is altered by disinfectant use,” he told Reuters Health by email, cautioning, “it is also possible that people in disinfectant-using occupations are exposed to other chemicals, which may have contributed to the present results. Other possibilities are that people in disinfectant-using occupations have better access to health care and tend to report more allergic diseases in children. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms.”

To take a closer look at the possibility that disinfectant use during pregnancy might impact risk of allergies in children, Dr. Kojima and colleagues turned to data from the nationwide Japan Environment and Children’s Study (JECS), which recruited more than 100,000 pregnant women who lived in one of 15 areas between 2011 and 2014.

Compared with moms who never used disinfectants, those with exposure one to six times a week had 18% greater odds of having children with asthma after adjustment for confounders (95% confidence interval, 5% to 33%), while daily exposure was tied to a 26% increase in odds (95% CI, 5% to 52%).

Similarly, after adjustment, exposure to disinfectants one to six times a week was associated with 16% greater odds of eczema in offspring (95% CI, 1.02-1.31); with daily exposure, the increase in odds was 29% (95% CI, 6% to 57%).

Among factors that the team adjusted for were maternal and parental allergies, maternal age at pregnancy, maternal exposure to indoor smoke during pregnancy, maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy, mode of delivery, annual household income, birth weight, gestational age at delivery, gender of the child, exclusive breastfeeding, and daycare attendance at 1 year, maternal occupation, and maternal return to work.

“The study found that ‘occupational’ disinfectant use during pregnancy increased the risk of developing asthma and atopic dermatitis in children,” Dr. Kojima said. “However, this result still needs to be validated with regard to the impact of disinfectant use in general. There is a clear benefit of disinfectant use in the prevention of coronavirus infections. Disinfectants should still be used.”

Reuters Health Information © 2022

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