House cleaning with chlorine bleach and the risks of allergic and respiratory diseases in children

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2007 Feb;18(1):27-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2006.00487.x.


Chlorine bleach or sodium hypochlorite can inactivate common indoor allergens. In this cross-sectional study we evaluated to what extent regular house cleaning with bleach can influence the risks of respiratory and allergic diseases in children. We studied a group of 234 schoolchildren aged 10-13 yr among whom 78 children were living in a house cleaned with bleach at least once per week. Children examination included a questionnaire, an exercise-induced bronchoconstriction test and the measurement of exhaled nitric oxide (NO) and of serum total and aeroallergen-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)E, Clara cell protein (CC16) and surfactant-associated protein D (SP-D). Children living in a house regularly cleaned with bleach were less likely to have asthma (OR, 0.10; CI, 0.02-0.51), eczema (OR, 0.22; CI, 0.06-0.79) and of being sensitized to indoor aeroallergens (OR, 0.53; CI, 0.27-1.02), especially house dust mite (OR, 0.43; CI, 0.19-0.99). These protective effects were independent of gender, ethnicity, previous respiratory infections, total serum IgE level and of family history of allergic diseases. They were however abolished by parental smoking, which also interacted with the use of bleach to increase the risk of recurrent bronchitis (OR, 2.03; CI, 1.12-3.66). House cleaning with bleach had effect neither on the sensitization to pollen allergens, nor on the levels of exhaled NO and of serum CC16 and SP-D. House cleaning with chlorine bleach appears to protect children from the risks of asthma and of sensitization to indoor allergens while increasing the risk of recurrent bronchitis through apparently an interaction with parental smoking. As chlorine bleach is one of the most effective cleaning agent to be found, these observations argue against the idea conveyed by the hygiene hypothesis that cleanliness per se increases the risk of asthma and allergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / prevention & control*
  • Bronchitis / etiology
  • Bronchitis / immunology
  • Bronchitis / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Detergents*
  • Female
  • Household Work*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Respiratory System / immunology
  • Sodium Hypochlorite*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects


  • Detergents
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Sodium Hypochlorite