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Use of Acetaminophen in Pregnancy Associated with Increased Asthma Symptoms in Children

Posted Feb 25 2010 3:23pm

Children who were exposed to acetaminophen prenatally were more likely to have asthma symptoms at age five in a study of 300 African-American and Dominican Republic children living in New York City. Building on prior research showing an association between both prenatal and postnatal acetaminophen and asthma, this is the first study to demonstrate a direct link between asthma and an ability to detoxify foreign substances in the body. The findings were published this week in the journal Thorax.

The study, conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, found that the relationship was stronger in children with a variant of a gene, glutathione S transferase, involved in detoxification of foreign substances. The variant is common among African-American and Hispanic populations. The results suggest that less efficient detoxification is a mechanism in the association between acetaminophen and asthma.

The researchers assessed the use of analgesics during pregnancy and found that 34 percent of mothers reported acetaminophen use during pregnancy, and 27 percent of children had wheeze, an asthma-related symptom. The children whose mothers had taken acetaminophen were more likely to wheeze, visit the emergency room for respiratory problems, and develop allergy symptoms, compared to those children whose mothers did not take acetaminophen. The risk increased with increasing number of days of prenatal acetaminophen use. The children in this study live in neighborhoods of New York City that have been the hardest hit by the asthma epidemic: Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx.

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