Exposure to indoor endocrine-disrupting chemicals and childhood asthma and obesity

Allergy. 2019 Jul;74(7):1277-1291. doi: 10.1111/all.13740. Epub 2019 Mar 5.


Background: Indoor air contaminants may act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). However, to what extent these contaminants affect health is poorly known. We aimed to assess the association between EDCs exposure and asthma, respiratory symptoms and obesity in schoolchildren.

Methods: Data from a cross-sectional analysis of 815 participants from 20 schools in Porto, Portugal, were analysed. Symptoms were assessed, asthma was defined on lung function, and airway reversibility and body mass index (BMI) were calculated. The concentrations of 13 volatile organic compounds and 2 aldehydes identified as EDCs were measured in 71 classrooms throughout 1 week. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to assess the effect of co-exposure. Associations were estimated by regression coefficients using linear and logistic regression models.

Results: Increased individual and combined EDCs levels were found in classrooms having more children with asthma and obesity. Higher levels of hexane, styrene, cyclohexanone, butylated hydroxytoluene and 2-butoxyethanol were associated with obesity, and higher levels of cyclohexanone were associated with increased child BMI. Toluene, o-xylene, m/p-xylene and ethylbenzene were significantly associated with nasal obstruction. A positive association was found between PC1 and the risk of obese asthma (OR = 1.43, 95% CI 1.01, 1.98) and between PC2 and overweight (OR = 1.51, 95% CI 1.28, 1.79). PC1 and PC2 were also associated with nasal obstruction, and PC2 was associated with breathing difficulties and lean body mass, although EDCs concentrations were low.

Conclusions: Our findings further support the role of EDCs in asthma and obesity development. Moreover, even low levels of indoor exposure may influence the risk of asthma, respiratory symptoms and obesity.

Keywords: asthma; children; endocrine-disrupting chemicals; indoor air; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / metabolism
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Overweight
  • Pediatric Obesity / complications
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / etiology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects


  • Air Pollutants
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Volatile Organic Compounds