Indoor Agents, Not Plasticizers, Linked to Asthma

- A new study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Science discredits earlier claims that linked plasticizers in products like vinyl flooring and wallcovering to childhood asthma. Researchers found instead that cockroaches, cat dander and dust mites definitely make asthma worse, while other agents such as secondhand tobacco smoke aggravate symptoms in small children. They also found that exposure to dogs, mold and fungi and cold viruses exacerbate symptoms. Researchers placed plasticizers in the study's lowest category, saying they could find "inadequate or insufficient evidence" of a link. An earlier study had suggested a relationship between vinyl flooring and wallcovering and bronchial obstruction in children, but was criticized for not measuring exposure to other agents that are proven allergens, including those listed in this study. On the other hand, the research emphasizes that intensive cleaning may help alleviate asthma symptoms, suggesting a clear benefit to the use of vinyl flooring and wallcovering because they can be easily cleaned and do not trap dust and pet hair.
EnVIronmental Briefs, May 2000

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