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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
"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
The IFH report, available online at
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/2003/2hypothesis/hh.htm, 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,
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