Common Household Cleaners Could be Altering Children’s Microbiome

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

The chemicals we use to clean our home may be detrimental to our children’s microbiome. Because of the known links to weight gain, as well as metabolic changes and the gut microbiome, it is possible that these chemicals are contributing to the obesity epidemic observed in children.

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looks at this topic.1

Study looked at the gastrointestinal flora (gut microbiome) of 757 infants

The study looked at the gastrointestinal flora (gut microbiome) of 757 infants from the general public (age 3-4 months). The weight of the children were measured at 1 and 3 years. Their exposure to disinfectants, detergents, and eco-friendly products used in the home were assessed.

Altered gut flora

Altered gut flora was most strongly associated in the 3-4 month old babies who were exposed to frequent use of disinfectants. They showed lower levels of Haemophilus and Clostridium bacteria but higher levels of Lachnospiraceae. An increase in Lachnospiraceae was also seen with increases in disinfectant use. The same associations were not seen with detergents and eco-friendly cleaners.


Disinfectants being used only weekly were seen to correlate with higher levels of Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months, as well as a body mass index that was higher than children not exposed. Babies in households using eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiomes than other children and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

Infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners

“Those infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae. However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk,” the researchers said.

The use of eco-friendly products may merely be a byproduct of an overall healthy way of living, including diet and more playful activities that would also affect healthy gut flora as well as weight of children.

“Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight,” write the authors. “Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population.”


  1. Moira K. Differding, Noel T. Mueller. Are household disinfectants microbially mediated obesogens? Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2018; 190 (37): E1095 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.181134

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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