Take a deep breath (or maybe not)
“This study found 156 different VOCs emitted from the 37 products, with an average of 15 VOCs per product. Of these 156 VOCs, 42 VOCs are classified as toxic or hazardous under US federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these chemicals. Emissions of carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from green fragranced products were not significantly different from regular fragranced products.”
Most homes are full of these products!!!
Indeed, most indoor environments (and everything in them) are now polluted with these VOCs due to the pervasive nature of these products and chemical compounds.
From the research article:
– This study investigates and compares VOCs emitted from 37 common products (air fresheners, laundry products, cleaners, and personal care products), including those with certifications and claims of green and organic (fragranced, fragrance-free, green, and regular).
– It extends a prior study of 25 consumer products by adding 12 more products, including fragrance-free versions of fragranced products, representing the first such comparison in the scientific literature.
– The most common chemicals in fragranced products were terpenes, which were not in fragrance-free versions.
– Of the volatile ingredients emitted, fewer than 3% were disclosed on any product label or material safety data sheet (MSDS).
– Terpenes react with ozone to generate a range of secondary pollutants including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, secondary organic aerosols,and ultrafine particles
– Consumer product VOCs from indoor sources can also migrate outdoors, affecting ambient air quality
What Products Were Tested?
9 air fresheners
(sprays, gels, solids, oils, and disks)
11 laundry products
(detergents, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners)
(household and industrial cleaning products, disinfectants, and dish detergent)
10 personal care products
(soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, shampoo, and baby shampoo)
Fragrance ingredients are exempt from full disclosure in any product, not only in the U.S. but also internationally.
– Collectively, a total of 559 VOC occurrences were detected across the 37
consumer products, representing 156 unique VOCs.
– Among all 37 products, the most prevalent VOCs (in at least 50% of
the products) were ethanol, d-limonene, β-pinene, and α-pinene
– In fragranced products, the most prevalent VOCs were d-limonene, β-pinene, α-pinene, ethanol, and acetone, and the latter two were also found in fragrance-free products.
– In fragrance-free products, the most prevalent VOCs were ethanol, acetaldehyde, methanol, and undecane, and all were also found in fragranced products.
– Comparing the most prevalent compounds in green and regular products, four out of five are the same (d-limonene, β-pinene, ethanol, and α-pinene)
Of the 156 unique VOCs emitted from the 37 products, 42 unique VOCs are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws.
– Each product emitted at least one of these potentially hazardous VOCs.
About half of the products (19) emitted one or more carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants (1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and methylene chloride), which have no safe threshold of exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
– Among the most prevalent VOCs in the products (found in at least half of the products), 80% are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws: ethanol, d-limonene, α-pinene, and acetone.
Of the most prevalent VOCs, 80% are the same between green and regular products, and of the most prevalent classified as toxic or hazardous, 75% are the same between green and regular products.
– fewer than 1% of all ingredients in the products were listed on any product label, fewer than 2% on any product MSDS, and fewer than 3% in either location.
– each product appears to be in compliance with their respective laws for disclosing (or not disclosing) ingredients.
The analysis focused on individual chemicals, yet potential product toxicity depends on other factors, such as mixtures of chemicals and concentrations.
– The GC/MS headspace analysis measured primary VOC emissions, directly from each product, which did not capture the generation of secondary pollutants.
– Consumer products are a primary source of human exposure to VOCs, including hazardous air pollutants. However, consumers lack information about actual and complete product ingredients and emissions, given that most ingredients (over 97% in this study) are not disclosed, and most potentially hazardous ingredients (over 94% in this study) are also not disclosed. …
The disclosure of some chemicals, but not all chemicals, on product labels and MSDSs may lead consumers to presume that they are seeing all ingredients.
– Consumer products used indoors, such as laundry supplies, can affect outdoor air quality, such as through dryer vent emissions
In sum, common consumer products represent a significant but largely unregulated and understudied source of human exposure to VOCs, and thus continued research could promote awareness and efforts among agencies, industries and the public to reduce health risks and improve air quality.
Anne Steinemann. Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 2015; (March) DOI: 10.1007/s11869-015-0327-6
Green Product VOCs
Commercial fragrance free product can have hazardous VOCs too!
Here are the compounds found in everyday products that most of us use on a daily basis, and that are regulated as toxic or hazardous!!!
Here are the hazardous fragrance ingredients
And finally, (for this blog post, there is much more in the research paper) here are the toxic VOCs found in commercial fragrance free products
Just because a brand name product is cashing in on the growing need for fragrance free products, it doesn’t mean they are doing so with safe and healthy ingredients. In some cases, they are still the better choice, but as we can see from this research, it’s not as simple anymore as grabbing something that says unscented or fragrance free.
And please don’t think you will escape the effects of inhaling and absorbing these pollutants. The evidence is mounting that fragrance chemicals will be responsible for more health harm than tobacco smoke. Pediatricians and child health experts are advising fathers to be, pregnant women, and children (especially) to avoid products with fragrances in them, as well as a number of other everyday, yet toxic products. They have been slow to act, waiting too long for definitive proof.
As was noted in the study, the usual advice to read labels isn’t helping to protect us. Better laws are needed, but we need to be cautious there too, as industry is continually working to write the laws (please read that article) that would serve to protect them from us, instead of laws that protect our health from their toxic waste.
We are the ones who pay the costs with damaged health, chronic illness, and premature deaths, from breathing in the dirty air, and drinking polluted water (these products do go down the drain after all and there is no away).
It’s time to stop this insanity and demand public health be the priority, not polluter profits! They should not be allowed to pollute us for profit while we pay the costs!
Safe, non-toxic (fossil-fuel-free) products are possible and preferable!
If you wish to explore some of the known adverse health effects, check out these sites:
CHE Toxicant and Disease Database
Check out Dr Steinemann’s website for some of her past research here.