Chemicals found in common products like sunscreen, baby wipes, flooring and shampoo have been found to cause allergies in children. Prenatal and early childhood exposure to these chemicals can have lifelong effects.
The development of allergies has been on the rise over the last few decades. At the same time, more than 100,000 new chemicals have been used in common consumer products according to a study published in Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research.
Exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy and early childhood have been linked with changes in cells, blood, and the immune system. These chemicals disrupt the normal body processes and cause a hyper reaction of the immune system. The hyper reaction often comes in the form of watery eyes, runny nose, and difficulty breathing.
The toxic load of our environment is seeping into our bodies. These damaging chemicals are entering the body by directly breathing them in, ingesting them, or absorbing them through the skin.
The chemicals then show up in blood, urine and even breast milk. Our children are exposed as early as gestation and it continues throughout childhood as they absorb the chemicals themselves.
Continue reading to find out common chemicals in our environment that lead to the development of allergies.
12 Swimming While Pregnant
A study in the British Journal of Dermatology made the connection between common airborne chemicals and allergies in children.
The scientists believe that commonly-found airborne chemicals like chlorine from pools and cleaning products could be the culprit behind children being 5 times more likely to develop allergies than 50 years ago.
Elizabeth Salter Green of CHEM trust explains that, “Simply put, in-utero growth, including neurological wiring of the brain and the development of the immune system, rely on chemical messengers – hormones – being at the right level at the right moment of development.”
While pools could lead to increased chemical exposure for the fetus other environmental factors could be at play too. The toxic chemical load presented in modern life has a combination of sources from food to cleaning products, to pollution.
11 Baby Wipes
A common chemical found in shampoo, baby wipes, conditioner, body washes and more are causing more and more allergic reactions.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MI) has been used in a variety of personal care products since the early 2000s.
According to Dr. Jennifer Cahill a dermatologist with the Skin and Cancer Foundation, it is, “now the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in our patient population.”
The preservative keeps bacterial growth from happening in the products.
Many of the people who have reported an allergic reaction to MI are parents and care-takers of small children. The researchers thought that the same allergic reactions in children may be misdiagnosed as diaper rash. The symptoms include a red, itchy rash on the skin.
10 Wall Paint
A New study published in the journal PLoS One found a disturbing connection between a chemical found in some wall paints and a child’s risk for allergies.
Children with bedrooms that have high levels of PGEs in the air are up to 180% more likely to have allergies.
PGEs are propylene glycol and glycol ethers. These chemicals are found in water-based wall paints, water-based cleansers, and some plastic toys and packaging.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers in Sweden. They tested the air quality of 400 preschool aged children, half with allergies and half without.
A common chemical found in sunscreens may cause skin allergies, thyroid issues and possibly cancer.
The chemical behind the claims? Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone absorbs UV rays and has been used in sunscreens since the 1980s.
Recently researchers discovered that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause health problems. The chemical can be found in blood, breast milk and urine samples.
Pregnant women and young children are advised to avoid sunscreens that contain Oxybenzone. Two European studies have found that the Oxybenzone can filter into a mother’s breast milk.
The lasting effects on the developing child are still not fully understood but research on adults has shown changes in reproductive systems and processes.
8 Food Dye
Through much digging, an allergist at the University of Michigan found that certain people have an allergic reaction to a food coloring agent called cochineal extract or carmine dye.
The extract is made from dried bugs. Female cochineal bugs are collected in Central and South America and the Canary Islands to make the dye.
The extract has been used in food, drinks, and cosmetics. Red, orange, pink and purple pigments can be made from the dye.
James L. Baldwin, M.D. treated a patient that came into the emergency room with a severe, life-threatening case of anaphylactic shock. This extreme allergic reaction usually happens as a response to an insect sting. This woman, though, ate a red popsicle.
Other people may have more mild reactions to the red dye such as hives and itchy skin. Often, this may seem like an unexplainable reaction. Instead, it could be an allergy to cochineal extract that can hide in food labels as “color added” or “artificial color”.
7 Diesel Exhaust
Diesel exhaust may be particularly harmful to the developing fetus or small child. In a study published in Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research, researchers noted that there may be a link between prenatal and early childhood exposure to diesel exhaust and the development of allergies.
By studying the reaction of mice exposed to diesel exhaust particles, researchers found that the offspring became hypersensitive to the particles, had inflamed airways and a hyper response of the immune system.
Another study found that children exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust particles were almost twice as likely to develop allergic asthma over a 12-month period in comparison to children who had low levels of exposure.
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that when women are exposed to some chemicals found in plastic during pregnancy and while breastfeeding the child is at an increased risk of developing asthma.
The study recorded the levels of phthalate found in the mothers’ urine and the children’ s newborn allergy risk.
A mouse-model was also used. The researchers found that the mouse offspring that were exposed to high concentrations had increased risk for allergies. But it didn’t stop there, in the third generation there was still an increased risk for allergies.
Other studies have found more problems with exposure to phthalates. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, neuro-developmental issues and reproductive risks are associated with long-term exposure to phthalates.
5 Smoking Herb
As marijuana is becoming legal in more places across the United States, doctors are seeing the need to better understand the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke on children.
A study published in the journal Pediatric Research found that babies exposed to marijuana smoke had tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in their urine. The study also found that the children who were exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke were more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke as well.
The children in the study were between the ages of 1 month to 2 years old. They had been hospitalized for bronchiolitis.
The authors of the study noted that more research on the effects of second hand marijuana smoke in children is needed. But exposure to the smoke may have detrimental effects similar to tobacco smoke for children.
4 PVC Floor Tiles
According to a study published in Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research found that “exposure to PVC flooring during pregnancy could be a critical factor in the development of asthma in children.”
PVC flooring is a common, inexpensive and long lasting flooring option. It is also known as vinyl flooring. PVC stands for poly vinyl chloride. It is easy to install and an increasingly popular choice in many homes.
The exposure to the chemicals found in PVC flooring change the way the immune system responds to different environmental factors. Children exposed to the chemicals found in PVC flooring may also have changes in their immune system but the greatest change seems to occur during in utero exposure.
3 Stress And Hormones
A study presented to the American Thoracic Society found that there may be a link between the amount of stress a mother endures during pregnancy and the likelyhood the child will develop allergies later in life.
The study measured the levels of a chemical found in the blood of newborns that is associated with the immune system as it functions.
A higher level of the chemical was found in babies of mothers experiencing higher levels of stress.
Dr. Rosalind Wright, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at Harvard Medical School explained that this research is just the beginning of explaining the connections between stress hormones and allergies.
“This research adds to a growing body of evidence that links maternal stress such as that precipitated by financial problems or relationship issues, to changes in children’s developing immune systems, even during pregnancy.” Wright noted.
A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found a connection between a common chemical used on crops and an increased risk of food allergies.
Dichlorophenols (DCPs) are found in common pesticides, chlorinated chemicals used in drinking water, moth balls, air fresheners, and herbicides sprayed on crops.
The study found that the people who had the highest levels of DCPs in their system were almost twice as likely to have a food sensitivity or allergy when compared to people with the lowest levels of DCPs.
The study didn’t identify a direct source of DCPs that caused food allergies but it did make the connection between the two. Since there are so many sources of DCPs it is difficult to pinpoint one source. Instead, the study highlights the need to be conscious of the toxic load we allow into our bodies.
1 Second-Hand Smoke
A study published in Allergy found a frightening connection between a child’s exposure to secondhand smoke and later development of multiple allergies.
The study specifically investigated children exposed to secondhand smoke in infancy and early childhood not children exposed in utero. That way a direct link could be made between secondhand smoke and the findings in the study. Researchers followed over 3,300 children from birth through 16 years of age.
The children who were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke were about 68% more likely to develop food allergies by the age of 4. The children were about 62% more likely to develop eczema.
Secondhand tobacco smoke had already been shown to increase asthma, ear infections, pneumonia, respiratory problems, bronchitis and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in infants and children.
Sources: PLoS One, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Pediatric Research, Centers for Disease Control, The Telegraph, Allergy, University of Michigan, Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research