This Cleaner May Cause an Unusual Side-Effect

Household disinfectants may be linked to childhood weight gain.

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In a recent study, researchers were provided stool samples from 757 infants in order to analyze their gut microbiome, which is the community of bacteria that live together in our digestive tract and develops during infancy. The infants' BMI at older ages and the use of disinfectant products were recorded to measure the potential correlation.

The results showed a connection between everyday disinfectants and a high BMI in toddlers. Infants living in households where antimicrobial disinfectants were used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the bacteria Lachnospiracae at ages three to four months than children whose homes did not frequently use disinfectants. When those children with higher levels of Lachnospiracae were three years old, their body mass index (BMI) was higher than children who did not live in homes that frequently use disinfectants. Anita Kozyrskyj, the senior author of the study and a pediatrics professor, added, “In animal studies, higher levels of Lachnospiracae have been associated with higher body fat and insulin resistance.” One finding in the new study surprised the research team: Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers. 

It is important to note that more research is needed to confirm these results and establish a relationship. Researchers cannot yet recommend consumers buy eco-friendly products; however, do advise the use of green products like DIY vinegar cleaning solutions. Richard Sedlak, executive vice president at American Cleaning Institute, states, “Proper use of household cleaners and disinfectants is an important contributor to infection control and healthy homes. These products are trusted by families to effectively clean, sanitize and disinfect areas of their homes, reducing opportunities for children at these young ages to suffer significant illnesses.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advices the proper use of EPA-registered disinfectants to help prevent the spread of the flu.

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