Common Household Chemical May Increase Kids' Risk of Eczema

A man's shoulder is covered with peeling blisters.
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Exposure to a household chemical in the womb may increase children's risk of eczema, a new study suggests.

In the study, mothers who were exposed to high concentrations of a chemical called butylbenzyl phthalate when they were pregnant were 52 percent more likely to have children who developed eczema by age 2, compared with mothers who were exposed to lower concentrations of the chemical, the study found.

Eczema is a chronic skin disorder that causes dry, itchy red skin on the face, scalp, or extremities. It can be brought on by a hypersensitive reaction, similar to allergies, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Butylbenzyl phthalate, or BBzP, is found vinyl flooring, artificial leather and other materials, and can be can be slowly released into the air in homes. Urine tests showed that all but one woman in the study had at least some exposure to the chemical.

The study found an association, not a cause-effect link between BBzP and excema, and future studies should look at whether reducing exposure to the compound leads to a reduction in risk of eczema, the researchers said.

The study also showed that exposure to BBzP was not associated with an increased risk of allergies to cockroaches, dust mites or mice, the researchers said.

Dr. Rachel Miller, of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, and colleagues analyzed information from 407 nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women and their children in New York City. The researchers measured the concentration of BBzB in the urine of the women during their third trimester of pregnancy. Following birth, the mothers were asked if their child had been diagnosed with eczema.

A total of 113 children, or 30 percent, had eczema by age two, and the condition was more common among African-American children in the study than Dominican children.

The higher the concentration of BBzP in a woman's urine during pregnancy, the more likely it was that her child developed eczema.

The researchers noted that they did not measure exposure to BBzP after birth, which could influence the results, and that the presence of eczema was self-reported, and not confirmed by a doctor.

The study was published online June 26 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Pass it on:  Babies exposed to the chemical butylbenzyl phthalate in the womb may be at increased risk for eczema later in life.

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Live Science Staff
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