Air concentrations of volatile organic compounds associated with conventional and “green” cleaning products in real-world and laboratory settings
The use of household cleaning products can result in exposure to potentially hazardous volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs). “Green” cleaning products have become increasingly available, but there is no official “green” standard, and it is difficult for consumers to know what chemicals they may be exposed to while cleaning. We measured air concentrations of 46 VOCs and SVOCs of concern released from conventional and “green” cleaning products during both real-world household cleaning and a controlled chamber environment, with a focus on chemicals that might increase women's risk of breast cancer, including possible carcinogens, reproductive/developmental toxicants, or endocrine disruptors. Air samples were analyzed using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and high-performance liquid chromatography. First, in a study of 50 women cleaning their own homes using either conventional or “green” cleaning products, we recorded the products used and collected air samples from the breathing zone to determine whether specific products or types of products were associated with increased concentrations of specific VOCs and SVOCs. The results showed that women who used conventional bleach products, disinfecting wipes, and dish soap had higher breathing zone air concentrations of several VOCs, including chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, hexaldahyde, and 1,4-dioxane, than women who did not use these products. While fewer “green” products were associated with increases in VOC air concentrations, use of “green” all-purpose cleaners was associated with increases in air concentrations of some fragrance chemicals of concern. In the laboratory, we then selected 9 of the most common conventional products and 7 “green” products used in the in-home study for measurement of the same VOCs using a continuous stirred cylindrical flow-through chamber. We found that 75% of the highest VOC emissions were emitted by conventional cleaning products, but we also identified VOC emissions of concern from green products. VOC emissions in the chamber largely agreed with the modeled associations from real-world cleaning.