Consumer products emit a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can affect air quality and health. Risk reduction is hindered because of lack of information about specific product emissions. 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. 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. 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. 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). Because health effects depend on many factors, not only individual ingredients, this study makes no claims regarding possible risks. However, knowledge of product composition can be an important step to understand, assess, and reduce potential exposures and effects.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Specifically, on product labels, five VOCs represented a total of 8 occurrences (ethanol, 3; isopropyl alcohol, 2; d-limonene, 1; acetone, 1; and propane, 1) and on product MSDSs, six VOCs represented a total of 13 occurrences (ethanol, 8; isopropyl alcohol, 1; d-limonene, 1; acetone, 1; propane, 1; and 2-butoxyethanol, 1).
This article does not provide specific wording from product labels and MSDSs because it could lead to the identification of product brands.
For the 28 products regulated by the CPSC, on the labels, ten listed no ingredients, and on the MSDSs, five listed no ingredients. For the nine products regulated by the FDA, on the labels, all nine listed ingredients, and on the MSDS, three listed no ingredients.
These 31 products were determined to be fragranced because of product advertising (e.g., “original scent”) or disclosure of a fragrance. For the 22 fragranced products regulated by the CPSA, 15 did not disclose a fragrance on the label, 12 did not disclose a fragrance on a MSDS, and 7 products did not disclose a fragrance on either. For the nine fragranced products regulated by the FDA, all nine disclosed a fragrance on the label, but eight did not disclose a fragrance on the MSDS.
(EPA) Environmental Protection Agency (1994) Technical background document to support rulemaking pursuant to the Clean Air Act, section 112(g), ranking of pollutants with respect to hazard to human health, EPA-450/3-92-010; 1994
(EPA) Environmental Protection Agency (1999) Determination of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air collected in specially-prepared canisters and analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Method TO-15. Compendium of methods for the determination of toxic organic compounds in ambient air. EPA/625/R-96/010b. 2nd ed. Cincinnati: US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development
(EPA) Environmental Protection Agency (2005) Guidelines for carcinogen risk assessment. EPA/630/P-03/001F. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Protection Agency, March
(EPA) Environmental Protection Agency (2007) Prioritized chronic dose–response values for screening risk assessments, Table 1. (http://www2.epa.gov/fera/dose-response-assessment-assessing-health-risks-associated-exposure-hazardous-air-pollutants)
(EWG) Environmental Working Group (2014a) EWG’s guide to healthy cleaning, ratings http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
(EWG) Environmental Working Group (2014b) Skin Deep Database, ratings http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
Chen J, Luo D (2012) Ozone formation potentials of organic compounds from different emission sources in the South Coast Air Basin of California. Atmos Environ 55:448–455
Cooper SD, Raymer JH, Pellizzari ED, Thomas KW, Castillo NP, Maewall S (1992) Polar organic compounds in fragrances of consumer products. Final Report, Contract # 68-02-4544. Research Triangle Park, NC: US EPA
Dahl R (2010) Greenwashing: do you know what you’re buying? Environ Health Perspect 118:a246–a252
Dodson RE, Nishioka M, Standley LJ, Perovich LJ, Brody JG, Rudel RA (2012) Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products. Environ Health Perspect 120:935–943
Edwards RD, Schweizer C, Llacqua V, Lai HK, Jantunen M, Bayer-Oglesby L, Künzli N (2006) Time–activity relationships to VOC personal exposure factors. Atmos Environ 40(29):5685–5700
Geiss O, Giannopoulos G, Tirendi S, Barrero-Moreno J, Larsen BR, Kotzias D (2011) The AIRMEX study—VOC measurements in public buildings and schools/kindergartens in eleven European cities: statistical analysis of the data. Atmos Environ 45(22):3676–3684
Goldsmith MR, Grulke CM, Brooks RD, Transue TR, Tan YM, Frame A, Egeghy PP, Edwards R, Chang DT, Tornero-Velez R, Isaacs K, Wang A, Johnson J, Holm K, Reich M, Mitchell J, Vallero D, Phillips L, Phillips M, Wambaugh JF, Judson RS, Buckley TJ, Dary CC (2014) Development of a consumer product ingredient database for chemical exposure screening and prioritization. Food Chem Toxicol 65:269–279
GoodGuide (2014) GoodGuide consumer products reviews and ratings, http://www.goodguide.com
Green Seal (2014) Product certification standards, http://www.greenseal.org
Jo W-K, Lee J-H, Kim M-K (2008) Head-space, small-chamber and in-vehicle tests for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from air fresheners for the Korean market. Chemosphere 70:1827–1834
Kwon K-D, Jo W-K, Lim H-J, Jeong W-S (2007) Characterization of emissions composition for selected household products available in Korea. J Hazard Mater 148:192–198
Maisey SJ, Saunders SM, West N, Franklin PJ (2013) An extended baseline examination of indoor VOCs in a city of low ambient pollution: Perth, Western Australia. Atmos Environ 81:546–553
Mitchell J, Arnot JA, Jolliet O, Georgopoulos PG, Isukapalli S, Dasgupta S, Pandian M, Wambaugh J, Egeghy P, Cohen Hubal EA, Vallero DA (2013) Comparison of modeling approaches to prioritize chemicals based on estimates of exposure and exposure potential. Sci Total Environ 458–460:555–567
Nazaroff WW, Weschler CJ (2004) Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos Environ 38(18):2841–2865
Rastogi SC, Heydorn S, Johansen JD, Basketter DA (2001) Fragrance chemicals in domestic and occupational products. Contact Dermatitis 45(4):221–225
Rossignol S, Rio C, Ustache A, Fable S, Nicolle J, Même A, D’Anna B, Nicolas M, Leoz E, Chiappini L (2013) The use of a housecleaning product in an indoor environment leading to oxygenated polar compounds and SOA formation: gas and particulate phase chemical characterization. Atmos Environ 75:196–205
Sack TM, Steele DH, Hammerstrom K, Remmers J (1992) A survey of household products for volatile organic compounds. Atmos Environ 26A(6):1063–1070
Sarigiannis DA, Karakitsios SP, Gotti A, Liakos IL, Katsoyiannis A (2011) Exposure to major volatile organic compounds and carbonyls in European indoor environments and associated health risk. Environ Int 37(4):743–765
Scruggs CE, Ortolano L (2011) Creating safer consumer products: the information challenges companies face. Environ Sci Pol 14(6):605–614
Singer BC, Coleman BK, Destaillats H, Hodgson AT, Lundin MM, Weschler CJ, Nazaroff WW (2006) Indoor secondary pollutants from cleaning product and air freshener use in the presence of ozone. Atmos Environ 40(35):6696–6710
Somogyi L, Janshekar H, Takei N (1998) Aroma chemicals and the fragrance and flavor industry. Stanford Research Institute International, CEH Review, p. 503.5000 F
Steinemann AC (2009) Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environ Impact Assess Rev 29(1):32–38
Steinemann A, Walsh N (2007) Environmental laws and exposure analysis. In: Ott W, Steinemann A, Wallace L (eds) Exposure analysis. CRC Press, Boca Raton
Steinemann AC, MacGregor IC, Gordon SM, Gallagher LG, Davis AL, Ribeiro DS, Wallace LA (2011) Fragranced consumer products: chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environ Impact Assess Rev 31(3):328–333
Steinemann AC, Gallagher LG, Davis AL, MacGregor IC (2013) Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 6(1):151–156
Wallace LA (1991) Comparison of risks from outdoor and indoor exposure to toxic chemicals. Environ Health Perspect 95:7–13
Wallace LA (2001) Assessing human exposure to volatile organic compounds. In: Spengler JD, McCarthy JF, Samet J (eds) Indoor air quality handbook. McGraw-Hill, New York, Chapter 33
Wallace LA, Nelson WC, Pellizzari E, Raymer JH, Thomas KW (1991) Identification of polar volatile organic compounds in consumer products and common microenvironments. Paper #91-62.4 presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association, Vancouver, BC; June
Weisel CP (2002) Assessing exposure to air toxics relative to asthma. Environ Health Perspect 110(Suppl 4):527–537
I thank Lance Wallace, Ian MacGregor, Amy Davis, and Jaret Basden for their valued contributions to this study and article and two reviewers for their helpful and thoughtful comments that improved this manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Steinemann, A. Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Qual Atmos Health 8, 273–281 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-015-0327-6
- Consumer products
- VOC emissions
- Fragrance free