Babies born to NHS workers or cleaners may be more at risk of asthma or eczema, a study suggests.
Children whose mothers used disinfectants one to six times per week while pregnant were nearly 30 per cent more likely to suffer by age three.
Women exposed to cleaning chemicals daily were most at risk, Japanese researchers claimed.
Experts warned the findings — derived from nearly 80,000 mother-child pairs — may also have serious implications for germaphobes.
Although the study was done in work places like hospitals, the researchers pointed to a huge rise in the use of bleach and hand sanitiser during the pandemic.
The latest study, from the University of Yamanashi, comes on the back of a wealth of research linking exposure to cleaning chemicals with asthma and eczema.
Some have even suggested rising rates of asthma and eczema in recent decades is due to an over-sterilisation and germophobic nature of modern life.
But experts have insisted that more research is needed before advising mothers-to-be to stop using disinfectants.
A Japanese study of almost 80,000 mothers and their children found those who regularly used disinfectants were more likely to have children who developed asthma and eczema
Researchers analysed data from 78,915 mother and child pairs, who were recruited into a Japanese children’s health study between 2011 and 2014.
Women who regularly used disinfectants were more likely to be nurses, doctors and hospital workers — accounting for 20 per cent of the study group.
Only 1.9 per cent of general study group reported using disinfectants, compared to 17.7 per cent of workers like nurses and doctors.
Study lead author Dr Reiji Kojima admitted his team could not directly explain why disinfectant use could be increasing rates of asthma and eczema.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.
He said disinfectants may influence the microbiomes of the mother and child while in the womb or be the result of chemical compounds affecting immune response in the foetus.
Dr Kojima also acknowledged women who regularly use disinfectant are more likely to be health professionals.
Therefore, they may spot conditions such as asthma and eczema in their youngsters and get them diagnosed, which could skew the findings.
Another potential limitation is how women self-reported their disinfectant exposure and their child’s conditions.
But Dr Kojima said the results of their study warranted further research, particularly in light of rising disinfectant use resulting from the Covid pandemic.
‘Given the current increased use of disinfectants to prevent coronavirus infections, it is of great public health importance to consider whether prenatal disinfectant exposure is a risk for the development of allergic diseases,’ they said.
The study was published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Reacting to the study, Tommy’s midwifery manager Amina Hatia told MailOnline that examining the impact of disinfectant use on expectant mothers was important.
‘Given the rise in our chemical use across the Covid pandemic the insights from this new study are timely,’ she said.
But she added that disinfectants play a important role in protecting pregnant women and their unborn child from diseases.
‘Ultimately, disinfectants are still an effective tool in the prevention of infectious diseases which could have extremely serious impacts on mother and baby,’ she said.
‘We’ll continue to recommend good ventilation and a thorough workplace assessment if disinfectants are being used at work and recommend that anyone worried about disinfectant use contacts their midwife to discuss.’
Previous studies have linked the use of cleaning products to the development of conditions like asthma.
A Norwegian study of 3,000 mothers and their children published in October last year found youngsters were had an up to 71 per cent increased risk of having asthma if their parent worked in a job where they regularly handled cleaning agents.
This was even true for women who had quit these jobs years before conceiving their child, suggesting the cleaning agents directly affected their eggs.
More than 8million people in the UK are estimated to have asthma, about 12 per cent of the population.
In the US there an estimated 25million asthma sufferers, about eight per cent of the population.
The condition, which affects small tubes inside the lungs causing them to become swollen restricting airflow, often starts in childhood but can disappear in adulthood.
It is can be triggered in response to allergens like dust or pollution, or by respiratory disease like colds or flus. Asthma is usually treated with medication delivered by an inhaler.
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, affects between 20 per cent of children in the UK and about 10 per cent of adults. About 10 per cent of Americans have eczema.
It is inflammatory condition that leads to redness, blistering, oozing, scaling and thickening of the skin.
What causes exactly eczema is unknown and although there is no cure various moisturisers and ointments are available to treat the symptoms.
Toxic chemicals while pregnant. What can I do to reduce my risk?
Should I be worried?
Some research has found potential links between being exposed to household chemicals and pregnancy complications. These complications have included preterm birth, low birth weight, pregnancy loss and conditions in the baby’s later life, such as asthma. However, it is important to remember that only potential links have been found. These complications may have been caused by other factors, including lifestyle choices and various other health conditions.
Some evidence shows that using cleaning sprays, air fresheners and solvents during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections for children after birth. However, much more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between exposure to chemicals and the risk of developing asthma.
Although these studies may sound frightening, the risk for most people is very low and shouldn’t be something for you to worry about. If you are concerned, it’s a good idea to speak to your midwife.
What about using chemical cleaners at home?
When you use cleaning products, try to ventilate the room during and after cleaning by opening the windows to get some fresh air. If you are cleaning your oven, make sure the room is well ventilated and read instructions carefully. Many oven cleaners produce a lot of fumes from strong chemicals.
Some products say they are free of ‘harmful’ chemicals or label themselves as ‘natural’. This does not always mean they are completely safe. If you are very worried about using cleaning products, you could try using completely natural products instead. White distilled vinegar is a great natural cleaner and you can add lemon or herbs to give a nice smell. Baking soda can also be a great cleaner, especially on ovens.
My job requires me to use cleaning products what should I do?
If you are concerned about chemicals at work, speak to your employer. They are responsible for doing a risk assessment to identify potential workplace risks during pregnancy. They need protect you from these as much as possible, for example, your employer may improve ventilation or provide extra protection.
However, even when you know what chemicals you work with, and how much you are exposed to, there is no way of fully knowing any risks to your baby. There is currently no evidence for safe or harmful levels of exposure. The best way to protect yourself and your baby is to keep exposure as low as possible, as a precaution.