Synthetic Chemicals: What We Have Learned and Still Need to Learn About Their Associations with Childhood Allergy and Asthma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: Prenatal and childhood exposure to synthetic chemicals, such as phenols and phthalates, have been linked to asthma and allergy, but the extent of this association and the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we provide an up-to-date review of the evidence linking phenol and phthalate exposure with childhood asthma and allergy and of proposed mechanistic pathways. Recent Findings: Five experimental and 12 epidemiological studies that examined associations between exposures to synthetic chemicals to asthma and allergic diseases were included. An additional 14 studies provided mechanistic support for the importance of immune modification through epigenetic regulation, induction of pro-allergic T2 expression, and endocrine disruption. Summary: While recent studies have provided further experimental and epidemiological evidence for how these chemical exposures may induce childhood asthma and allergy, the recent literature remains limited. However, emerging mechanistic studies have identified chemical-induced alterations in DNA methylation of genes implicated in allergic inflammation and endocrine disruption as potential pathways. In addition, barriers to decrease exposure to synthetic chemicals at the individual level (facilitated through education) and areas for further action at the organizational and governmental levels are suggested. The latter includes transferring some of the onus from the individual to organizations and legislation to restrict marketing and access to products containing potentially harmful chemicals and provide alternative products. We also suggest future research that focuses on further elucidating pathways between exposure to disease development and identifying strategies to reduce exposure at the population level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-468
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Environmental Health Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Allergy
  • Asthma
  • Bisphenols
  • Chemical exposure
  • Epigenetic Regulation
  • Phthalates


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