Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants

W. Nazaroff, Charles J. Weschler

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Building occupants, including cleaning personnel, are exposed to a wide variety of airborne chemicals when cleaning agents and air fresheners are used in buildings. Certain of these chemicals are listed by the state of California as toxic air contaminants (TACs) and a subset of these are regulated by the US federal government as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). California's Proposition 65 list of species recognized as carcinogens or reproductive toxicants also includes constituents of certain cleaning products and air fresheners. In addition, many cleaning agents and air fresheners contain chemicals that can react with other air contaminants to yield potentially harmful secondary products. For example, terpenes can react rapidly with ozone in indoor air generating many secondary pollutants, including TACs such as formaldehyde. Furthermore, ozone-terpene reactions produce the hydroxyl radical, which reacts rapidly with organics, leading to the formation of other potentially toxic air pollutants. Indoor reactive chemistry involving the nitrate radical and cleaning-product constituents is also of concern, since it produces organic nitrates as well as some of the same oxidation products generated by ozone and hydroxyl radicals.

    Few studies have directly addressed the indoor concentrations of TACs that might result from primary emissions or secondary pollutant formation following the use of cleaning agents and air fresheners. In this paper, we combine direct empirical evidence with the basic principles of indoor pollutant behavior and with information from relevant studies, to analyze and critically assess air pollutant exposures resulting from the use of cleaning products and air fresheners. Attention is focused on compounds that are listed as HAPs, TACs or Proposition 65 carcinogens/reproductive toxicants and compounds that can readily react to generate secondary pollutants. The toxicity of many of these secondary pollutants has yet to be evaluated. The inhalation intake of airborne organic compounds from cleaning product use is estimated to be of the order of 10 mg d(-1) person(-1) in California. More than two dozen research articles present evidence of adverse health effects from inhalation exposure associated with cleaning or cleaning products. Exposure to primary and secondary pollutants depends on the complex interplay of many sets of factors and processes, including cleaning product composition, usage, building occupancy, emission dynamics, transport and mixing, building ventilation, sorptive interactions with building surfaces, and reactive chemistry. Current understanding is sufficient to describe the influence of these variables qualitatively in most cases and quantitatively in a few. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Issue number18
    Pages (from-to)2841-2865
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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