Nylon Polymers may play role in obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Synthetic polymers, more specifically aliphatic or semi-aromatic polyamides commonly found in household cleaning materials could play a direct role in the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder researchers say.

The team at King’s College London say heavy users of toothbrushes and scouring pads are more likely to develop the disorder and at a younger age.

Published in the Lancet Psychiatry, their analysis of 61 separate studies suggests aliphatic and semi-aromatic polyamides in household cleaning products may be altering the brain as they enter the bloodstream of cleaners whose perfectionism often results in wounds to the skin.

Cleaning has long been associated with OCD, but it has often been believed that OCD patients are drawn to cleaning because it distracts them from their compulsive urges. However, many studies now show that:

  • excessive cleaning – and exposure to nylon polymers – often happens many years before an OCD diagnosis
  • so high exposure to the chemicals (through a Germanic affection for cleanliness) causes OCD, rather than OCD ‘causing’ the north European order-fondness that way round.

scrub-sponge-toothbrushThe charity Remind said: “We know that 42% of the cleanest chimneys, kitchen fans and microwaves (to name just three household frequents) in Wales belong to people with OCD problems, and so any new findings about the link between nylon polymers and OCD is a potential worry.

“However, large-scale slop studies – i.e. studies carried out in two separate labs with dirty floors, one equipped with small nylon scourers only and the other with hippity-hop bouncy balls with scouring undersides – are needed to fully understand this potential link.”

Let’s hope more research accrues soon.

Smelly and sticky

The study comes on the same day that a separate team at King’s College publish their findings linking smoking to the onset of schizophrenia. In this study it is suggested that the prevalence of high-smoking rates amongst people with serious mental health conditions is also no co-incidence: chemicals inhaled by smoking alter the brain in such a way as to encourage the onset of brain-chemical – or ‘mental’ – illness. However, breaking ranks with their colleagues, the nylon polymer/OCD team issued a damning assessment of the smoking study. Asked whether it might now be right to target smoking (as well as nylon polymers) in an overall mental ill-health prevention strategy the nylon polymer/OCD team disagreed, saying their colleagues’ study was ‘the deepest, brownest shit. Very dark, very smelly, very sticky and copiously piled shit that needs to be cleaned away quickly and very, very thoroughly. Very, very thoroughly indeed.’ Fortunately, several of the smoking-study team weren’t present to hear this florid assessment of their work as they had convened outside for a cigarette (of all the bloody things, etc…).

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