Choose your cleaning supplies carefully to shield your children from obesity!

Some household cleaning products have an impact on the gut microbiota of newborns. Those that are used as disinfectants could promote even more the development of bacteria associated to higher obesity rates later in life.


Less is often more. This saying can also be applied to house cleaning supplies, especially when there is a newborn at home. According to an American study, these products may impact the gut microbiota of babies. In particular, disinfectants seem to be the most harmful and could lead to excess weight at the age of three.

Specific bacteria may promote weight gain

To reach this conclusion, the researchers monitored 757 newborns until their third birthday. Around the age of 3 to 4 months, their intestinal flora was analyzed in detail and their mothers indicated which cleaning supplies they used. The first observation they made was that liquid cleaning products do not reduce the abundance or diversity of the microbiota, but they do affect its composition. Disinfectants (chemical products that destroy bacteria and viruses such as bleach or oxygenated water) significantly increase the amount of some intestinal bacteria, especially those of the Lachnospiraceae family–a bacterial group associated to high blood sugar levels and increased abdominal fat based on studies on animals. Newborns that are the most exposed to disinfectants, and thus having higher levels of Lachnospiraceae, have a higher risk of developing an increased BMI*, or even becoming obese during childhood.

Long days at home

Babies exposed to different cleaning products (detergents used to remove stains, ecological products made from natural substances) are also prone to imbalances in the gut microbiota, although they are less pronounced and less consequential. Newborns exposed to detergents have a BMI within average range. Those in contact with ecological products are luckier! Their risk of being overweight at the age of three is reduced. These results are enlightening since we know that newborns spend 80% of their time at home, and thus their exposure to these products is extended… Nevertheless, the researchers call for caution: the use of disinfectants was more frequent in homes where the baby was born through C section, had received antibiotics before birth, or even had been exposed to tobacco; and these factors could impact the risk of becoming overweight.

* BMI = body mass index



Tun MH, Tun HM et al. Postnatal exposure to household disinfectants, infant gut microbiota and subsequent risk of overweight in children. CMAJ, 17 septembre 2018