Group Says British Asthma Study Analysis Sends Wrong Messages About Beneficial Cleaning Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Media coverage of a British study on children and asthma wrongly links the use of cleaning products to asthma suffering -- and ignores the health benefits of responsible product usage, according to the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).


Newspaper stories that have attacked the use of cleaning products and

hygiene in general are based on an observational study published in the

British journal Thorax. The initial interpretation of the study -- based on

answers to a questionnaire -- presumes that usage of chemicals in household

cleaning products leads to wheezing and asthma suffering in children.


The SDA, which represents the makers of cleaning products and their

ingredients, reminds consumers that the proper use of cleaning products is an

effective and efficient tool in combating the triggers that lead to asthma and

allergy suffering.


"As we have long maintained, when it comes to combating asthma, cleaning

products are part of the solution," said Ernie Rosenberg, SDA president and

CEO, who suffered from asthma as a child.  "Using cleaning products as

directed is a powerful ally in eliminating or reducing the triggers that lead

to asthma suffering, including dust and dust mites, animal dander, insect

droppings, and mold and mildew."


"Suggesting that cleaning is detrimental to one's health sends the wrong

message to parents," said Rosenberg.  "For children already suffering from

asthma, reducing allergens in the home through routine cleaning is critically



According to an initial review of the study published in Thorax, the UK

Cleaning Products Industry Association finds:


     "Valid conclusions can only come from studies of this kind if there is an

     accurate measurement of exposure to the supposed cause.  Questionnaire

     answers on frequency of use can only give an extremely crude picture

     which may be wholly inaccurate.  A meaningful measure of exposure needs

     to reflect both duration of use, mode of use, route of exposure (e.g.

     through the air or on the skin) and -- most critically -- the nature of

     the chemicals in the formulations to which people are being exposed.  In

     this context, the idea of calculating some generic 'chemical burden' as

     the authors seem to have done has no clear scientific basis."


     "Based on the information currently available in the new study, and given

     the number of other factors that need to be taken into consideration, the

     correlations reported cannot be said to show household chemicals to be a

     cause of wheezing, let alone a 'rise in asthma'."


"In very simple terms, good hygiene saves lives," added SDA's Rosenberg. "And those who would use this report to allege 'we're too clean' ignore comprehensive scientific reviews that say otherwise."


A landmark 2004 report by the London-based International Scientific Forum

on Home Hygiene (IFH) on the so-called hygiene hypothesis finds "no

justification" for claims that cleaning and hygiene contribute to an increase

in allergies.


The IFH report, available online at, notes there is

evidence that changing exposure to microbes may be a factor in the rise of

allergies.  But it finds "no evidence that cleaning habits prevalent today are

to blame" and "firmly dispels the notion that we are living in super-clean,

germ-free homes."


The SDA provides free educational materials for families and educators on

cleaning to control asthma and allergy triggers on its Web site at


Source: Soap and Detergent Association