Hazardous Chemicals Emitted by Common Cleaning Products

A recent peer-reviewed study conducted by scientists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has uncovered alarming information about the potential health risks associated with everyday household cleaning products. The study, published in Chemosphere, reveals that these common cleaning products may release hundreds of hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), posing health threats to individuals.

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS UNCOVERED

The study analyzed a total of 30 cleaning products, including multipurpose cleaners, glass cleaners, air fresheners, and more. The findings indicate that these products may emit a total of 530 unique VOCs. Of these, 193 VOCs were identified as hazardous, with the potential to cause respiratory system damage, increase cancer risk, and have developmental and reproductive impacts.

EXTENSIVE ANALYSIS OF 30 CLEANING PRODUCTS

Researchers examined both conventional and “green” cleaning products in their study. These VOCs have adverse effects on indoor and outdoor air quality, with indoor air being contaminated two to five times more than outdoor air, and potentially even up to 10 times more. Some products continue to emit VOCs for days, weeks, or even months.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY CONCERNS

Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., a senior toxicologist at EWG, emphasized the importance of awareness regarding these potential risks associated with the chemicals entering indoor air. The study’s findings underscore the need to reduce exposure to hazardous VOCs by selecting “green” products, especially those that are both “green” and “fragrance-free.”

GREEN PRODUCTS SHOW PROMISE

The study concludes that products labeled as “green” emit fewer VOCs compared to conventional products, with about half the number, on average. Furthermore, “fragrance-free” green products produce the fewest VOC emissions, nearly eight times fewer than conventional products and four times fewer than green products with fragrance labels.

EFFECT OF VOC HAZARDS

VOCs are of particular concern due to the potential health risks they pose to workers, especially in the cleaning industry. Research indicates that those working in this field have a 50% higher risk of developing asthma, a 43% higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and an increased risk of lung cancer for women. Additionally, children’s health may be at risk, as higher use of certain indoor cleaners during pregnancy and infancy is linked to a greater risk of childhood asthma and wheezing.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS

The study’s results not only have implications for human health but also for environmental health. VOCs emitted by consumer products can contribute to outdoor air pollution, compounding existing environmental concerns. A 2018 study estimated that half of the VOCs responsible for air pollution originate from consumer products.

GOING GREEN FOR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

Samara Geller, EWG’s senior director of cleaning science, emphasized that choosing green cleaning products is a simple way to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. This choice holds particular importance for women’s and children’s health. It not only benefits individual health but also contributes to a cleaner environment.

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