Household antimicrobials raise allergy risks

June 28, 2012

Exposure to antimicrobial agents commonly used in personal-care products may increase children’s risk of food and environmental allergies, a study of a large, nationally representative sample suggests. More >>


Exposure to antimicrobial agents commonly used in personal-care products may increase children’s risk of food and environmental allergies, a study of a large, nationally representative sample suggests.

The endocrine system regulates hormone production in the body from conception through old age, and science suggests that chemical exposure could disrupt endocrine functioning and affect immune response. Some endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are used as antimicrobials and preservatives in food, medications, and hand sanitizers.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center investigated the relationship between EDCs contained in common household products and allergic sensitization in children. Using data on 860 children aged 6 to 18 years who participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, they examined the relationship between a child’s urinary levels of 7 EDCs (bisphenol A, triclosan, benzophenone-3, and propyl, methyl, butyl, and ethyl parabens) and the presence of IgE antibodies in the child’s blood.

Only triclosan and propyl and butyl parabens, which have antimicrobial properties, were associated with increased allergy risk. Compared with children with the lowest triclosan levels, children with the highest urinary levels of triclosan, found in soap, mouthwash, and toothpaste, had the highest levels of food IgE antibodies. Children with the highest urinary levels of parabens, preservatives used in cosmetics, food, and medications, showed detectable environmental IgE antibodies compared with children with low urinary levels of parabens.

Children with the highest urinary levels of triclosan and propyl paraben had almost double the risk of environmental allergies compared with children with the lowest urinary concentrations. Risk of food allergy in children with the highest urinary levels of triclosan was more than twice that of children with the lowest levels, although high levels of paraben in the urine were not associated with food allergy risk.

Allergic sensitizations to all EDCs were more prevalent in boys than in girls.

The researchers say their study is the first to associate EDCs with allergies and that sensitization to EDC-containing products may be because of their antimicrobial properties rather than endocrine disruption.

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