(NaturalNews) Although the mainstream medical establishment and the FDA frequently warn against the supposed dangers of alternative health treatments and supplements, they hardly ever mention the perfectly legal and widely used chemical poisons that enter our bodies through the environment. What's more, the EPA has also done little to keep many health-endangering chemicals out of widely-used consumer products. Now, two new studies reveal countless children could be suffering breathing problems due to some of these common chemical threats.
A case in point: researchers from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center have determined that youngsters exposed during the prenatal period to the widely used pesticide additive piperonyl butoxide (PBO) have an increased risk of developing a chronic cough at ages 5 and 6. Their study, just published in the online edition of the journal Environment International, provides evidence that a child's respiratory system is susceptible to damage from toxic exposures while still in the womb. While not due to an infection, a chronic childhood cough can seriously disrupt normal daytime activities and severely disturb sleep for both kids and their parents.
So what exactly is PBO? It's a compound that increases effects of pyrethroids which are found in the pesticides most commonly used by both professional pest controllers and consumers, according to a 2011 study by Mailman School researchers. Previous research showed exposure to one pyrethroid, a variation of permethrin, was especially linked with increased risk for cough by age five. The new study found that children exposed to PBO during pregnancy had an increased risk of coughing unrelated to cold or flu.
A chemical cause of childhood asthma?
An even more serious problem caused by common chemicals that impact children's ability to breathe freely has been revealed by another new CCCEH study. It turns out that youngsters exposed to diethyl phthalate (DEP) and butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), which are phthalate chemicals commonly found in personal care and plastic products, have an elevated risk of asthma-related airway inflammation.
The research team studied 244 children between the ages of five and nine and found they all had detectable levels of phthalates in their urine. Those with the higher levels of both phthalates were found to have higher levels of nitric oxide in their exhaled breath -- a biological marker of airway inflammation. The link between BBzP exposure and airway inflammation was especially strong among children who had recently experienced wheezing, a common symptom of asthma.
"While many factors contribute to childhood asthma, our study shows that exposure to phthalates may play a significant role," says Allan Just, PhD, first author on the new study, which was recently published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Shielding your children from phthalates can be difficult because manufacturers are permitted to use these chemicals in countless consumer wares, including plastics, vinyl flooring, and personal care products. Phthalates enter the body through ingestion and inhalation. They can be absorbed through the skin, too. In addition to possibly triggering asthma in kids, several phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system and early-life exposure has been linked to adverse neurobehavioral and reproductive effects as well as to childhood eczema.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.