The antibacterial chemicals present in soap, toothpaste and other personal-care products may be contributing to childhood food and environmental allergies, according to research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
In recent years, researchers have struggled to understand why rates of childhood allergies continue to increase. From 1997 to 2007, prevalence of food allergies increased 18 percent among children, according to a study from 2008. Researchers estimate that more than 23 million people in the US now have asthma and allergies. One of the leading theories for the increase in allergies is the "hygiene-hypothesis," which argues that children in developed countries live in conditions that are too clean, preventing their immune systems from getting used to germs and bacteria.
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The study from John Hopkins is just the latest to back up the hygiene hypothesis. In the study, researchers looked at 860 children and measured the amount of antibacterial chemicals in their urine. The researchers found that children with higher levels of the personal-care chemicals in their urine were also more likely to have more IgE antibodies in their blood. IgE antibodies are immune chemicals that are elevated in people with allergies.
“The link between allergy risk and antimicrobial exposure suggests that these agents may disrupt the delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body," lead author Jessica Savage announced in a press release.
Other theories behind the allergy explosion include pollution and better detection, MSNBC reported.