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Everyday substances increase risk of allergies

The use of chemicals in our everyday lives entails increased risks of allergies in children, according to a study at Karlstad University in Sweden. The prevalence of PGEs, propylene glycol and glycol ethers, in bedroom air is associated with asthma, hay fever, and eczema, but also with antibodies against common allergens in children. The study shows a risk increase of up to 180 percent.

“The study shows for the first time that the concentration of PGEs, propylene glycol and glycol ethers, in bedroom air was linked to an increased risk of developing asthma, hay fever, and eczema in children,” says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health science at Karlstad University and associated with the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden.

“The increase in risk varied between 50 and 180 percent. It was also found that a higher concentration of PGEs in indoor air was associated with children evincing antibodies (IgE) against allergens such as cats, dogs, pollen. Our analyses also revealed that the use of water-based paint in the dwelling, as well as water-based cleansers, was linked to a higher concentration of PGEs in bedroom air.”

What does this mean?

In recent decades a huge number of chemicals have been introduced into our everyday environments. Such chemicals are primarily related to construction materials, paints, etc. and a great number of common consumer products such as cleansers, plastics, toys, cosmetics, and packaging.

“We have previously shown that phthalates from soft PVD could be tied to allergic conditions in children,” says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag. “Now we have focused on PGEs, which are a group of volatile organic compounds found in water-based indoor paints and cleansers, for example. Among the PGE substances identified are compounds suspected of disturbing hormones, which was also the case regarding the phthalates we studied earlier.”

“Our findings once again raise the question of the health-related aspects of the use of chemicals in our everyday lives,” says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag. “Particularly when it comes to exposure in our home environments, since small children and pregnant women spend a great deal of their time there and there are many indications that exposing fetuses and infants is probably more risky. Our current research is addressing this, that is, what does it entail in terms of chronic conditions later in life that we expose fetuses and infants to a great number of chemicals that are suspected of being toxic.”

The study comprised 198 preschool children with asthma and allergy and 202 healthy controls included in the Housing-Children-Health Study in the county of Värmland. Dwellings were examined by professional inspectors, and air samples were taken in the children’s bedrooms, where eight groups of volatile compounds were analyzed. The children were examined by physicians. Moreover, parents responded to a questionnaire about the family’s health, lifestyle, etc. The article is a result of a collaboration between Karlstad University and the Harvard School of Public Health in the U.S.

For more information please contact Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health science, phone: +46 (0)54 700 2540 or mobile: +46 (0)70 586 6565,

Pressofficer: Carina Olsson;; +46-54 054 700 2244

Carina Olsson | idw
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