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24-10-2010 | Respiratory | Article

VOCs in home air linked to asthma and allergies in children

Abstract

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MedWire News: Increased levels of certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in household air are associated with an increased risk for asthma and allergies in children, study results show.

A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental exposure to pollution, household chemicals, and other substances in early life may increase the risk for asthma and allergies in children, explain Carl-Gustaf Bornehag (Karlstad University, Sweden) and colleagues in the journal PloS One.

But they add that the risk for such conditions associated with exposure to VOCs, which are emitted by many household products including computers, televisions, synthetic building materials, carpets, composite wood, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) flooring, and foam cushions, is not known.

To investigate, the team studied air samples collected from the bedrooms of 198 children with asthma and/or allergies and 202 healthy children without such conditions who were aged between 3 and 8 years.

The air samples were analyzed for levels of eight classes of VOCs: aromatic hydrocarbons, alkanes, organic acids, aldehydes, methyl-alkanes, propylene-glycol and glycol ethers (PGEs), dimethyl-alkanes, and texanol A+B.

Of these, the researchers found that only PGEs were associated with an increased risk for asthma and allergies in children, with each natural-log unit increase in PGE levels (equal to interquartile range, or 3.43-15.65 µg/m3) associated with a 1.5-fold increased risk for such conditions.

Regarding specific conditions, each natural-log unit increase in PGEs was associated with a 1.5-fold increased risk for asthma, a 2.8-fold increased risk for rhinitis, and a 1.6-fold increased risk for eczema, after accounting for confounding factors such as gender, parental allergies, and exposure to secondhand smoke, household cleaning agents, and cat and dog allergens.

Among the children with asthma and allergies, each natural-log unit increase in PGEs was associated with 1.8-fold increased risk for immunoglobulin (Ig)-E sensitization.

Bornehag and team conclude: "The present investigation demonstrates for the first time that the bedroom concentrations of PGEs are significantly associated with elevated risks of multiple allergic symptoms, rhinitis and eczema… as well as IgE-sensitization in preschool age children."

They add: "Apparent risks of PGEs at such low concentrations at home raise concerns for the vulnerability of infants and young children.

"Our present observations warrant confirmation in a prospective cohort study."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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