Household chemicals and the microbiome

A recent study by the Washington State University has recently researched the effects of household chemicals on the microbiome. Household chemicals include detergents, personal care products, plastics, but also chemically treated fabrics and carpets, cooking appliances, etcetera. Also taken into account were the indoor air quality and level of dust presence in-house. These three environmental factors cause an increase of the presence of semi-volatile organic compounds. These compounds are absorbed by the blood and can thus have a direct influence on the microbiome. People come into contact with these compounds on a daily basis, but especially children are affected as they regularly put plastics and other household items in their mouth. As such, this study looked at the health effects of these organic compounds on, amongst others, the microbiome.

They found that children with an increased amount of PFAS in their blood, a chemical found in popcorn, microwave meals and take-away or restaurant meals, had a lower microbiome diversity in general. Similarly, children with a high concentration of phthalates in their blood, were found to have a lower fungal diversity in their microbiome. A lower microbiome diversity has been associated with manifold symptoms, such as asthma, depression and obesity.

Remarkably, the researchers found that several chemical-degrading bacterial species, not normally present in humans, were found in children with relatively high amounts of PFAS and phthalates in their blood. This can point in the direction of a coping mechanism by the human body or the microbiome to counteract the toxic presence of household chemicals and poor air quality, factors that are ever more present in modern society.