Are Antibacterials to Blame for Your Kid's Allergies? A New Study Finds a Link

Chemicals in some soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash may play a role in immune system development

THURSDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Antibacterials and preservatives in products such as soap, toothpaste and mouthwash may be linked to an increased risk of allergies in children, according to a new study.

Johns Hopkins Children's Center researchers used data from a U.S. national health survey of 860 children, aged 6 to 18, to examine the link between urinary levels of antibacterials and preservatives found in many personal-care products and the presence of IgE antibodies in the children's blood.

IgE antibodies are part of the body's immune system. Their levels rise in response to an allergen and are elevated in people with allergies.

"We saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens," lead investigator Dr. Jessica Savage, an allergy and immunology fellow, said in a Hopkins news release.

Children with the highest levels of the antibacterial agent triclosan had more than twice the risk of food allergies and nearly twice the risk of environmental allergies as children with the lowest levels, the findings revealed.

Children with the highest levels of the preservative propyl paraben had more than twice the risk of environmental allergies as those with the lowest levels, but propyl paraben levels were not associated with food allergy risk.

The study was published online June 18 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The researchers explained that their findings do not prove that antibacterials and preservatives themselves cause allergies, but instead suggest that these chemicals may play a role in immune system development.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about allergies in children.

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