Antibacterial chemicals, bacteria and eczema


Main content

We are every day exposed to many chemicals in occupational settings and in our everyday life – through foods, cosmetics, and other consumer products. Many of the chemicals that are used as preservatives in personal care product have antibacterial properties.

Oral or dermal exposure to these compounds may affect the microbiome composition on the skin or in the oral cavity. We wanted to study whether a change in the bacterial community may acerbate or increase the risk of allergy and eczema.  

In this PhD-project we aim to assess how these chemicals affects bacterial composition in the oral cavity and on the skin and described the association between bacteria and allergic and respiratory diseases such as eczema, allergy, and asthma.

In the population-based study on children, adolescents, and adults – the RHINESSA study in Bergen, we have analyzed urinary biomarkers of chemical exposures, with a particular focus on chemicals that are used in personal care products. We find clear distinction in the reported use of personal care products between men and women, with women reported a much more frequent used of most cosmetic products, which also explains the much higher urinary concentrations of these chemicals in women compared to men.

It has recently been reported that some of these chemicals are stored in fatty tissue, and in our study a higher BMI is associated with lower concentration of excreted chemical in urine. Exposure to the antibacterial chemicals is also found to affect oral bacterial composition.

We now plan to study how use of disinfectants and hand sanitizers and affects hand eczema and bacterial composition on the skin.  



1. Exposure to environmental phenols and parabens, and relation to body mass index, eczema and respiratory outcomes in the Norwegian RHINESSA study. Vindenes HK, Svanes C, Lygre SHL, Real FG, Ringel-Kulka T, Bertelsen RJ. Environ Health (2021): 20(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s12940-021-00767-2. Fulltext: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34256787/

2. Prevalence of, and work-related risk factors for, hand eczema in a Norwegian general population (The HUNT Study). Vindenes HK, Svanes C, Lygre SHL, Hollund BE, Langhammer A, Bertelsen RJ. Contact Dermatitis (2017): 77(4):214-223. doi: 10.1111/cod.12800. Fulltext: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28449354/