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Headlines Published on 25 July 2007

Title Large European-led study links use of household cleaning sprays and asthma

A large international study has detected a correlation between household cleaning sprays and the incidence of asthma and other respiratory difficulties in adults. These findings are the main results of a study coordinated by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology and the Municipal Institute of Medical Research (Spain), with support from centres in five European countries and Canada. Their findings were published in a recent online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

European researchers make first home aerosol/asthma link. © Matt+
European researchers make first home spray/asthma link.
Through their research, the respiratory experts were able to confirm that the use of spray cleaning products at least once a week is associated with new onset of asthma symptoms in adults. They were also able to positively identify a proportionate link between the two events. The more often sprayed glass cleaners and air fresheners were used, for example, incidence of respiratory difficulties increased. Conversely, non-spray cleaning products were not associated with asthma symptoms.

Epidemiological studies in the past have shown a correlation between sprays and asthma in cleaning professionals, but this is the first time a link has been established in the home. Researchers collected the data via the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), conducted among 3 503 men and women between the ages of 20 and 44. Study participants were monitored in 22 participating health centres from 10 different countries.

Study subjects used the cleaning products with varying regularity, ranging from daily to once a week. The researchers are quick to note however that even though a relationship between sprays and asthma seems clear, more research is needed to pinpoint exactly how the condition is triggered.

‘Despite the fact that the use of spray cleaners is related to a significant risk of developing asthma in adults, this finding requires future research in order to identify, among other things, the actual chemical composition responsible for the sensitisation and the characteristic inflammatory reactions of the induced respiratory effects in adults,’ the research team reports. The European Community Respiratory Health Survey is an EU-funded initiative funded as part of the Quality of Life Programme. Researchers from Germany, Holland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Sweden participated in the study. Respiratory disease has figured prominently in EU Framework Programmes as case numbers have been on the rise in Europe.

More information:

  • ECRHS project (EC project 2001-2004)
  • Health research in FP7
  • American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine online
  • Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology

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