Household chemicals affect gut microbiome – healing practice

Intestinal flora in children affected by contact with chemicals

The meaning of Intestinal flora for human health has increasingly come into focus in recent years. In a new study it has now become clear that contact with various widely used chemicals can have a massive impact on the intestinal flora in children.

In the current study, a correlation between the concentration of bacteria and fungi in the gastrointestinal tract of children and the amount of common chemicals in their home environment could be demonstrated for the first time, reports Washington State University of the results of the research team led by the assistant professor Courtney Gardner. The corresponding study was published in the specialist magazine “Environmental Science and Technology Letters“.

Small children more stressed

People are exposed to a variety of chemicals in the air and dust in their homes every day. Small children can absorb these chemicals to a greater extent, for example, when they crawl on the carpet or put objects in their mouths, explain the researchers.

The research team led by Courtney Gardner from the Faculty of Building and Environmental Engineering at Washington State University therefore examined blood and urine samples from 69 small children for the content of “ubiquitous semi-organic compounds” in the current study.

Which household chemicals were recorded?

The chemicals covered included “Phthalates used in laundry detergents, plastic clothing such as raincoats, shower curtains and personal care products such as soap, shampoo and hairspray, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in stain and water-repellent fabrics, coatings for carpets and furniture, non-stick cooking products, polishes, paints and cleaning agents, ”report the researchers.

Furthermore, the composition of the intestinal microbiome of the children was analyzed using faecal samples. The researchers found that children who had higher concentrations of the chemicals in their bloodstream had differences in their gut microbiome. For example, higher levels of PFAS in the blood showed a decrease in the amount and diversity of bacteria, and higher levels of phthalate showed a decrease in fungal populations.

Worrying link found

The study author emphasizes that the correlation between the chemicals and the less common bacterial organisms is particularly pronounced and potentially particularly worrying. “These microbes may not be the main driving forces and may have more subtle roles in our biology, but it could be that one of these microbes has a unique function and reducing their number has significant health effects,” said Gardner.

Also discovered unusual bacteria

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the children who had high levels of chemical compounds in their blood had several types of bacteria in their intestines that help clean up toxic chemicals.

These “dehalogenating bacteria were used for bioremediation to break down persistent halogenated chemicals such as solvents for chemical cleaning from the environment” and they “typically do not occur in the human intestine”, explain the researchers. The increased levels of this type of bacteria in the gut may mean “the gut microbiome is trying to correct itself,” Gardner said.

Understand interactions better

Although the data obtained do not reveal any causal relationships, they do provide an indication of the types of organisms that can be influenced by exposure to the chemical compounds, emphasizes the study author. And they are a good basis for further research that can improve our understanding of the interactions between man-made chemicals, the gut microbiome and human health. (fp)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by doctors.


Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Courtney M. Gardner, Kate Hoffman, Heather M. Stapleton, Claudia K. Gunsch: Exposures to Semivolatile Organic Compounds in Indoor Environments and Associations with the Gut Microbiomes of Children; in: Environmental Science and Technology Letters (veröffentlicht 02.11.2020),
  • Washington State University: Researchers find connection between household chemicals and gut microbiome (veröffentlicht 12.11.2020),

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.


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