More Wheeze With PCBs

Asthma in children may get worse when exposed to toxic chemicals in household products

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There's more reason not to sniff the paint. Or let your kids play with wires. Children with asthma who are exposed to products with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) could feel worse.

This means if you have household products from the 70's or earlier, check them for PCBs.

"Take time to learn about environmental risks around your home."

PCBs are man-made, toxic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. They were regularly used in paint, lubricants, and electrical equipment from the 1930's through the 1970's when they were banned.

Since they cannot break down easily, they still exist in the environment. When they do break down, they can be spread through water and the air.

The study, led by Peter Sly, PhD, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, included 240 children with asthma. All the kids were 14 years old.

They measured the levels of PCBs and three pesticides found in their blood, along with how much each child wheezed, a common symptom of asthma.

The odds that the wheeze was present in the kids exposed to PCBs were 1.6 times higher than the odds that the wheeze was present in kids not exposed, the researchers found.

The results are still in the preliminary stages and need to be reviewed.

They also suggest that there's a stronger link between PCBs and wheeze in those with non-allergic asthma.

“Despite PCBs being banned from use in many countries, people are still suffering from the effects of these toxic substances," Dr. Sly said in a press release.

"Our findings suggest that people with high levels of the chemicals in their blood stream are suffering from higher levels of wheeze, a common asthma symptom."

The study was presented Sept. 2 at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Vienna. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 6, 2012
Last Updated:
September 6, 2012