Bornehag, CG, J Sundrell, CJ Weschler, T Sigsgaard, Björn Lundgren, Mikael Hasselgren, Linda Hägerhed-Engman. 2004. The Association between Asthma and Allergic Symptoms in Children and Phthalates in House Dust: A Nested Case-Control Study, Environmental Health Perspectives, in press.
This study links exposure to phthalates found in household dust to rhinitis, eczema, and asthma in children.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals used widely in modern commerce. Over the last several decades, exposure to phthalates has become ubiquitous and virtually unavoidable. There are many types of phthalates, each with its own chemical and physical properties and toxicological characteristics.
This sounds like it may be a signficant finding. Eczema and asthma are rising very fast in developed countries (especially the UK), but no one is really clear as to why. This might explain it: phthalates are emissions from plastic bottles, plastic wrap, PVC, many cosmetics, vinyl tile, and many other ubiquitous modern creations.
And this is more than just a correlation — there's a biological mechanism suspected.