By Jaclyn Parks, MSc
Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease and the leading reason for why children miss school or require hospitalization. It is a complex disease that results from genetic factors, environmental exposures, and how the two interact. As infants are growing and developing, their respiratory and immune systems are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to damage from environmental chemicals. Some vulnerabilities are genetically predetermined, but some result from the many exposures in a child’s early life. Canadian children spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors, so it or makes sense that understanding their home environment is key to understanding what they are exposed to with the aim of finding modifiable risk factors in the home that could reduce the risk of asthma.
Research conducted by Jaclyn Parks and her supervisor Dr. Tim Takaro at Simon Fraser University revolves around understanding what and how modifiable indoor environmental exposures in early life relate to childhood asthma. Jaclyn’s work has focussed on how frequent cleaning product use in the home, second– and thirdhand smoke exposure, house dust toxins, and other factors are related to the development of asthma, allergies and recurrent wheezing in Canadian children. One recently published analysis showed that infants who grew up in homes where cleaning products were used more frequently were more likely to develop recurrent wheeze, asthma, and a combination of recurrent wheeze with allergic sensitization at age three. Sprayed, scented, and heavily corrosive products appeared to be the key players behind this risk.
This work is possible because of the CHILD Cohort Study—the largest longitudinal birth cohort in Canada, following close to 3,500 children from gestation to early adolescence and beyond. CHILD is collecting data from questionnaires, biological samples including biomarkers (urine, blood serum, saliva and stool) from clinical assessments, and even environmental samples such as house dust. So far, this research powerhouse has produced over 100 peer-reviewed publications and enabled ground-breaking insight into the development and prevention of childhood asthma, allergies, and other childhood diseases or disorders. CHILD’s dedicated team of researchers, physicians, students and participating families are advancing health research and improving child health and well-being.
Jaclyn Parks is an early-career health sciences researcher with an interest in environmental exposures and respiratory health. childstudy.ca