Asthma in Children—Could It Be the Chemicals?

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Nearly nine million children in the United States have asthma, a condition that causes the airways to become swollen. Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing are the most common symptoms of asthma. Although allergies are a major cause of asthma in children, studies are finding that environmental toxins also play a role.

One recent study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Vienna found that children with the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their blood were more likely to report the wheezing symptom of asthma when compared to those children with the lowest levels of the toxins.

PCBs were phased out in the 1970s due to the environmental harm they were causing, but the chemical was present in electrical equipment, lubricants, and paint additives that still exist in homes today. Further, PCBs do not break down quickly and so persist in the environment long after they were introduced. “Despite PCBs being banned from use in many countries, people are still suffering from the effects of these toxic substances,” stated the lead researcher of the study.

That’s not all. Another recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that children exposed to two phthalates—chemicals found in personal care and plastic products—are at increased risk of asthma-related inflammation compared to those children with the lowest levels. “While many factors contribute to childhood asthma, our study shows that exposure to phthalates may play a significant role,” noted Allan Just, lead author of the study.

Reducing toxin exposure when possible during pregnancy and throughout childhood will go a long way to reducing the risk of accumulated toxins in your body and in the bodies of your family. It can take some research, but it’s worth it. And it’s relieving to know that it keeps getting easier. More and more products are being created without these harmful chemicals. This trend will continue as more people become aware of the detrimental health effects of toxins.