Nav: Home

Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners

July 23, 2008

A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. All six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels.

"I first got interested in this topic because people were telling me that the air fresheners in public restrooms and the scent from laundry products vented outdoors were making them sick," said Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. "And I wanted to know, 'What's in these products that is causing these effects?'"

She analyzed the products to discover the chemicals' identity.

"I was surprised by both the number and the potential toxicity of the chemicals that were found," Steinemann said. Chemicals included acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; limonene, a molecule with a citrus scent; and acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1,4-dioxane.

"Nearly 100 volatile organic compounds were emitted from these six products, and none were listed on any product label. Plus, five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic 'hazardous air pollutants,' which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe exposure level," Steinemann said.

Her study was published online today by the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review. Steinemann chose not to disclose the brand names of the six products she tested. In a larger study of 25 cleaners, personal care products, air fresheners and laundry products, now submitted for publication, she found that many other brands contained similar chemicals.

Because manufacturers of consumer products are not required to disclose the ingredients, Steinemann analyzed the products to discover their contents. She studied three common air fresheners (a solid deodorizer disk, a liquid spray and a plug-in oil) and three laundry products (a dryer sheet, fabric softener and a detergent), selecting a top seller in each category. She bought household items at a grocery store and asked companies for samples of industrial products.

In the laboratory, each product was placed in an isolated space at room temperature and the surrounding air was analyzed for volatile organic compounds, small molecules that evaporate from the product's surface into the air.

Results showed 58 different volatile organic compounds above a concentration of 300 micrograms per cubic meter, many of which were present in more than one of the six products. For instance, a plug-in air freshener contained more than 20 different volatile organic compounds. Of these, seven are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. The product label lists no ingredients, and information on the Material Safety Data Sheet, required for workplace handling of chemicals, lists the contents as "mixture of perfume oils."

This study does not address links between exposure to chemicals and health effects. However, two national surveys published by Steinemann and a colleague in 2004 and 2005 found that about 20 percent of the population reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and about 10 percent complained of adverse effects from laundry products vented to the outdoors. Among asthmatics such complaints were roughly twice as common.

Manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients used in laundry products and air fresheners. Personal-care products and cleaners often contain similar fragrance chemicals, Steinemann said. And although cosmetics are required by the Food and Drug Administration to list ingredients, no law requires products of any kind to list chemicals used in fragrances.

"Fragrance chemicals are of particular interest because of the potential for involuntary exposure, or second-hand scents," Steinemann said.

"Be careful if you buy products with fragrance, because you really don't know what's in them," she added. "I'd like to see better labeling. In the meantime, I'd recommend that instead of air fresheners people use ventilation, and with laundry products, choose fragrance-free versions."

The European Union recently enacted legislation requiring products to list 26 fragrance chemicals when they are present above a certain concentration in cosmetic products and detergents. No similar laws exist in the United States.

"I hope this study will raise public awareness, and reduce exposures to potentially hazardous chemicals," said Steinemann.
-end-
For more information, contact Steinemann at (206) 616-2661 or acstein@u.washington.edu.

University of Washington

Related Chemicals Articles:

Ozone recovery may be delayed by unregulated chemicals
Recent increases in an unregulated ozone-depleting substance, could delay recovery of Antarctic ozone levels by 5-30 years, depending on emissions scenarios.
Recycling plant material into stock chemicals with electrochemistry
While most people think of recycling in terms of the packaging for household products, the concept can extend to the chemistry to make them in the first place.
Household chemicals may impair thyroid in young girls
Early childhood exposures to specific phthalates were associated with depressed thyroid function in girls at age 3, according to scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
Researchers track perfluorinated chemicals in the body
New research in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters shows scientists have developed a method to track perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in the body.
High levels of chemicals found in indoor cats
A study from Stockholm University has now established what was previously suspected, that the high levels of brominated flame retardants measured in cats are from the dust in our homes.
The never-ending story: Chemicals that outlive -- and harm -- us
Chemical manufacturers have agreed to pay $670 million in damages to people with cancer and other health harm from exposure to a recently phased-out highly fluorinated chemical.
Chemicals hitch a ride onto new protein for better compounds
Berkeley Lab chemists have developed a powerful new method of selectively linking chemicals to proteins, a major advance in the manipulation of biomolecules that could transform the way drugs are developed, proteins are probed, and molecules are tracked and imaged.
Synthetic chemicals: Ignored agents of global change
Despite a steady rise in the manufacture and release of synthetic chemicals, research on the ecological effects of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals is severely lacking.
Synthetic chemicals understudied drivers of environmental change
The growing use of synthetic chemicals, including pesticides and pharmaceuticals to attack unwanted organisms, has outpaced rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and other agents of global change in the last 45 years, a Duke-led analysis reveals.
For chemicals, mega is out and bio is in
Rice University engineers propose in Science that the future of chemical production lies in decentralized biomanufacturing facilities that will push innovation and achieve efficiency not possible at today's megaplants.

Related Chemicals Reading:

Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story
by Alexander Shulgin (Author), Ann Shulgin (Author)

, xxviii, 978 pages, xxviii, 804 pages, other ISBN: 0963009699 View Details


Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook, Eighth Edition
by Don W. Green (Author), Robert H. Perry (Author)

Get Cutting-Edge Coverage of All Chemical Engineering Topics― from Fundamentals to the Latest Computer Applications.

First published in 1934, Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook has equipped generations of engineers and chemists with an expert source of chemical engineering information and data. Now updated to reflect the latest technology and processes of the new millennium, the Eighth Edition of this classic guide provides unsurpassed coverage of every aspect of chemical engineering-from fundamental principles to chemical processes and equipment to new computer... View Details


FE Chemical Review Manual
by Michael R. Lindeburg PE (Author)

Michael R. Lindeburg PE’s FE Chemical Review Manual offers complete review for the FE Chemical exam. This book is part of a comprehensive learning management system designed to help you pass the FE exam the first time.

FE Chemical Review Manual (FECHRM) features include:

equations, figures, and tables of the NCEES FE Reference Handbook to familiarize you with the reference you’ll have on exam day16 diagnostic exams to assess your grasp of knowledge areas covered in each chapterconcise explanations supported by exam-like example problems, with step-by-step... View Details


FE Chemical Practice Problems
by Michael R. Lindeburg PE (Author)

FE Chemical Practice Problems (FECHPP) offers comprehensive practice for the NCEES Chemical FE exam. This book is part of a comprehensive learning management system designed to help you pass the FE exam the first time.

FE Chemical Practice Problems (FECHPP) features include:

over 600 three-minute, multiple-choice, exam-like practice problems to illustrate the type of problems you’ll encounter during the examclear, complete, and easy-to-follow solutions to deepen your understanding of all knowledge areas covered in the examstep-by-step calculations using equations... View Details


Balancing Chemical Equations Worksheets (Over 200 Reactions to Balance): Chemistry Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers
by Chris McMullen (Author)

Master the art of balancing chemical reactions through examples and practice:
10 examples are fully solved step-by-step with explanations to serve as a guide.Over 200 chemical equations provide ample practice.Exercises start out easy and grow progressively more challenging and involved.Answers to every problem are tabulated at the back of the book.A chapter of pre-balancing exercises helps develop essential counting skills.Opening chapter reviews pertinent concepts and ideas.Not just for students: Anyone who enjoys math and science puzzles can enjoy the challenge of balancing these... View Details


Quantitative Chemical Analysis
by Daniel C. Harris (Author)

The gold standard in analytical chemistry, Dan Harris’ Quantitative Chemical Analysis provides a sound physical understanding of the principles of analytical chemistry and their applications in the disciplines. View Details


Our Chemical Hearts
by Krystal Sutherland (Author)

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.
 
Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third... View Details


The Chemical Free Home 1 (Packaging from Rank-Up Refinery)
by CNHP Melissa M. Poepping (Author)

Due to a grandfather clause in the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), it is estimated that 65,000-100,000 chemicals are in our market today that have not been thoroughly tested! Labels on other products imply they are safe when in reality their ingredients can be dangerous! In the "Chemical Free Home" author Melissa Poepping identifies some of the common toxins people are exposed to daily in everyday household items. Using Essential Oils as a key ingredient learn how to create safe substitutions. Recipes for deodorant, furnish polish and laundry detergent are just some of the many examples... View Details


U.S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological And Chemical Survival Manual
by Dick Couch (Author)

In an era of geopolitical instability, terrorism, and the threat of a North Korean missile attack, military experts teach you how to survive the worst-case scenarios we all dread
If a dirty bomb explodes three miles from your home, will you know what to do? If a nerve agent is released into a train or building, can you be safe? The U.S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual gives you the information you need to survive a terrorist attack. It contains the best practices of all the United States' military services, adapted for the first time for civilian... View Details


Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood
by Oliver Sacks (Author)

Long before Oliver Sacks became a distinguished neurologist and bestselling writer, he was a small English boy fascinated by metals–also by chemical reactions (the louder and smellier the better), photography, squids and cuttlefish, H.G. Wells, and the periodic table. In this endlessly charming and eloquent memoir, the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings chronicles his love affair with science and the magnificently odd and sometimes harrowing childhood in which that love affair unfolded.

In Uncle Tungsten we meet Sacks’ extraordinary... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."