Choose green and fragrance-free cleaning products to avoid harmful VOCs

Common cleaning products can release hundreds of harmful chemicals according to a new study published in Chemosphere.

Environmental Working Group scientists analysed 30 common cleaning products – including all-purpose, carpet, floor, glass and wood cleaners and air fresheners – finding many capable of releasing hundreds of toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs can contribute to air pollution, both indoors and outdoors. Some are harmful to health linked to respiratory damage, cancer risk or other concerns.

Sixteen of the cleaning products were conventional and 14 ‘green’ products labelled as safer, healthier, or non-toxic.

Products were analysed using ‘air chamber testing’. A total of 530 unique VOCs were identified across the 30 cleaning products, including 193 known to be potentially harmful to health. Individual products emitted between 0 and 119 VOCs.

Some products continue to emit VOCs over days, weeks and even months.

The research is significant given research shows people working as cleaners have a higher risk of developing asthma or other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Notably the analysis finds products labelled ‘green’ and/ or ‘fragrance free’ had lower average concentrations of VOCs overall as well as hazardous VOCs, than conventional cleaners.

“This study is a wake-up call for consumers, researchers and regulators to be more aware of the potential risks associated with the numerous chemicals entering our indoor air,” says Dr Alexis Temkin a senior toxicologist for the Environmental Working Group.

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