If you’re a worker who plans to get pregnant, take heed of a new study that warns that pregnant women who work in hospitals and are exposed to disinfectants may be more likely to have children who suffer from asthma and eczema.
The Japanese researchers focused on occupational disinfectant use, notes study author Dr. Reiji Kojima, not use of disinfectants by the general public.
“The study found that occupational disinfectant use during pregnancy increased the risk of developing asthma and eczema in children. However, this result still needs to be validated with regard to impact of disinfectant use in general,” says Kojima, who is in the University of Yamanashi School of Medicine’s department of health sciences.
“There is a clear benefit of disinfectant use in pandemic coronavirus infection, so I think disinfectant should continue to be used,” Kojima adds.
For the study, the researchers included more than 78,000 mother-child pairs who were part of the Japan Environment and Children’s Study.
The team found that the odds of 3-year-old children having asthma or eczema was significantly higher if their mothers had used disinfectants between one and six times a week, compared to children whose mothers didn’t use disinfectants at work: those whose mothers used disinfectants daily had 26% greater odds of an asthma diagnosis and 29% greater odds of eczema, compared to children whose mothers had no work-related disinfectant exposure.
What is the link between disinfectants and eczema?
The study was observational and couldn’t determine cause, but the researchers offered some suggestions.
Chemicals found in disinfectants can cause skin irritation, allergies, infections, and eczema in newborn babies, says Dr. Swati Gaikwad, consultant obstetrician, and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Pune. “It can aggravate respiratory health issues. Even those with existing respiratory problems will have a tough time if the disinfectants are used on a daily basis. They can damage the respiratory tract through prolonged or repeated exposure, if inhaled. Other signs like skin burns and eye irritation will also be seen,” she explains.
It could be that the disinfectants affect the microbiome, having an effect on the gut and skin microflora of both the mother and child. Or, it could be immune-mediated, meaning that exposure to some chemicals affects the fetus in-utero.
Another possibility is that these mothers are more medically knowledgeable and have sought out health care for their children, the study authors note.
“I think the microbiome is said to be involved in the development of allergic disease in children, and so it is possible that disinfectant use causes the change in microbiome,” Kojima adds. “And also it is possible that people in a disinfectant-using occupation are exposed to