Household Cleaners Alter Microbiome:
Associated With Childhood Obesity

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN


A recent Canadian study announced that commonly used household disinfectants may be contributing to childhood obesity by altering their gut microbiome.i The study’s authors analyzed the gut microbiome of 757 infants when they were 3-4 months old and recorded their weight at ages 1 and 3 years. This data was then correlated with the kid’s exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

Altered gut microbiome in infants 3-4 months old were strongest for frequent use of household disinfectants such as multi-surface cleaners. Certain strains of bacteria associated with obesity became more abundant while several stains associated with normal weight declined. They did not find the same associations with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners. Previous studies with piglets, whose digestive tract is similar to humans, have found similar changes in the gut microbiome with exposure to aerosol disinfectants.

Lead investigator Anita Kozyrski stated, “We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months; when they were 3 years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant.

The study results reported that infants living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiome profiles and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

In their conclusions, the researchers stated “Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight. Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population.”

The authors suggest the need for further studies to explore how the use of household disinfectants might contribute to the complex causes of obesity by altering the microbiome of infants.

 


i Tun M, et al. Postnatal exposure to household disinfectants, infant gut microbiota and subsequent risk of overweight in children. CMAJ. Sept. 17, 2018;190(37):E1097-E1107.