Researchers at Columbia University have reportedly found a link between prenatal exposure to household chemicals and childhood asthma.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children had an almost 80 percent increased risk of developing asthma if their mothers were exposed to high levels of phthalates during pregnancy.

Study author Robin Whyatt, a professor at the Columbia University Medical Center of Environmental Health Sciences and co-director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, commented that the prenatal period is when children are most vulnerable to chemical exposure and susceptible to subsequently developing numerous lifelong ailments, not just asthma.

As a population, almost everyone in the United States is exposed to two phthalates (butylbenzyl phthalate and di-n-butyl phthalate) on an everyday, continuous basis. Although a significant body of research has linked phthalates to endocrine disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity, this is the first study to look at the association between prenatal phthalate exposure and childhood asthma risks.

How Can We Prevent Childhood Asthma?

Whyatt offers the following recommendations on how to avoid prenatal phthalate exposure to prevent childhood asthma:

  • Do not store food in plastic containers.
  • Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
  • Avoid No. 3 and No. 7 plastics.
  • Avoid scented personal-care products (it might say “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label).
  • Avoid scented laundry detergent and air fresheners.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are chemicals that help make plastics strong and flexible. They are pervasive, used in everyday objects like:

  • Detergent.
  • Soap.
  • Shampoo.
  • Hair Spray.
  • Makeup.
  • Flooring.
  • Toys.
  • Medical Supplies.
  • Storage Containers.

According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “A significant loophole in federal law allows phthalates (and other chemicals) to be added to fragrances without disclosure to consumers.” The European Union, on the other hand, has banned phthalates use in cosmetic and personal-care products altogether.

Prevent Childhood Asthma with These Non-Toxic, Phthalate-Free Products

3rd Rock Sunblock: America’s Safest Sunscreen
EcoLunchbox 3-in-1
EcoLunchbox 3-in-1
Poppy’s Aloe Hand and Body Soap

Naomi Imatome-Yun is a food, wellness, and lifestyle editor. Her work appears in USA Today, Yahoo, and Dining Out. She is the author of Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce and is a food expert for About.com. Naomi lives in Santa Monica and loves running, reading, beach volleyball, yoga, sculpture parks, and dancing around with her husband and kids.

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