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Swimming During Pregnancy May Increase Baby's Asthma Risk

Update Date: Sep 02, 2013 10:02 AM EDT

Women who swim during pregnancy may be putting their unborn children at risk of asthma and eczema, a new study suggests.

New research reveals that common chemicals like chlorine from pools and cleaning detergents could be responsible for the 500 percent increase in inherited allergies during the last half century.

Researchers say exposure to these chemicals could change unborn children's immune systems and leave them more sensitive to conditions like eczema, asthma and hay fever.

One theory behind the rise of allergy disorder is known as the "hygiene hypothesis" states that being excessively clean or the lack of early exposure to bacteria increases vulnerability to autoimmune disease.

However, researchers at St. John's Institute of Dermatology in London and the University of Manchester wanted to see whether exposure to everyday airborne chemicals "during critical windows of pregnancy or early-life development" might also play a role in the rise of autoimmune disorders.

"High-level exposure to volatile organic compounds in the domestic environment either during maternal pregnancy or in early life, is associated with development of childhood atopic disease," researchers wrote in a report published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

"Similarly, sustained exposure to airborne chlorinated chemicals from swimming pools during childhood has been associated with the development of atopic allergy," they added.

"We in the science world are still struggling to find the exact cause of this rise," said Dr. John McFadden, consultant dermatologist at St John's Institute, according to the Daily Mail.

 "We have not proved anything, we are not saying this is the cause, this is a hypothesis, but we do know we are using far more chemicals than we did 50 years ago, whether it is in personal care products or processed food," he added.

However, McFadden said more research is needed to confirm the latest findings.

"It is conceivable, but not proven, that persistent low-dose exposure to chemicals can have some effect on the immune system," he conlcuded.

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