New research has found that pollutants found in the air may cause eczema in infants. Eczema, also referred to atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes an individual’s skin to become itchy and extremely dry. This skin condition affects more than 31 million Americans.
Eczema often develops in infancy and peaks in early childhood. However, flare-ups may occur even in adults when an individual comes into contact with allergens such as dyes, pets, perfumes or even food.
While it is common knowledge that genetics may make one more susceptible to developing eczema, researchers are yet to determine its exact cause. However, a dramatic rise in the condition’s incidence in industrialized nations since the ‘70s has left many researchers convinced that the environment may play a major role in causing eczema.
This new study was led by Dr. Ian Myles of the Epithelial Research Unit, who stated that the scientists had found reliable data confirming that pollutants played a huge role in the significant increase of atopic dermatitis cases. For their study, Myles and his research team consulted regions in the country where health centers were treating more patients with eczema then studied the toxins collected in the surrounding environment.
The researchers discovered that the most common toxins were isocyanates and diisocyanates. Diisocyanates are utilized in the manufacturing process of polyurethane products such as flexible foams, adhesives, fabrics and carpets designed to be weather resistant or stretchy.
Despite their prevalence, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated that diisocyanates were unlikely to be toxic in polyurethane products, as long as the items were dried or cured properly by manufacturers. It should be noted that this does not apply to exposure for factory workers.
On the other hand, isocyanates were considered the main cause of the dramatic rise in eczema cases. Isocyanates are produced as exhaust fume byproducts when catalytic converters work to get rid of harmful chemicals in gasoline.
Before 1975, it wasn’t compulsory to have a catalytic converter on your vehicle in the United States. This timing coincides with the rise of atopic dermatitis cases.
The researchers also tested the chemicals on bacterial cultures and mice models, determining that they affected the skin’s microbiome in two main ways. For starters, these chemicals prevented healthy bacteria from making oils to moisturize the skin. In addition, the chemicals activated a receptor on the skin that sent signals to the brain to induce inflammation and itching.
The researchers’ findings will help inform the development of new treatments. They were reported in the “Science Advances” journal.
Companies such as Jupiter Wellness Inc. (NASDAQ: JUPW) are also hard at work developing better treatments for eczema to provide relief to those diagnosed with this condition.
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