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Indoor Air Quality

7. What household chemicals and products can pollute indoor air?

    Certain paints emit chemicals
    Certain paints emit chemicals

    Credit: Daniel Case

    There are many different household consumer products, including detergents, floor care products, furniture and household fabrics, disinfectants, air fresheners, products for laundering, glues, paints, paint strippers and personal care products. These products may emit chemical compounds or particles that can be breathed in, either when the liquids that contain them evaporate, when they are sprayed as aerosols or when candles and incense are burned. Very little is known about the concentrations that these emissions reach in indoor air, or how much they contribute to total exposure. In addition, consumer products, their use and the concentration of emissions from these products in indoor areas may be very different across the EU.

    A Danish study assessing indoor air pollution by various consumer products found that many of them emitted volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs). Using computer models and assumptions of different products being present in different rooms, children’s rooms were predicted to contain higher concentrations of these compounds than kitchen/family rooms, and halls/utility rooms. Although typical levels were in most cases acceptable, worst case exposures for some of the compounds exceeded accepted limits. The worst emitters of the investigated consumer products were incense and spray paint, printed matter, and electronic equipment.

    VOCs from consumer products may contribute on average to 10-20 % of total VOCs in different indoor environments. This represents roughly a similar fraction as transport from outdoors, depending on the quality of the outdoor air. Air fresheners, general purpose cleaners and floor care products have been estimated to be major sources of VOC emissions among household products. In some studies, professional domestic cleaning has been associated with asthma or asthma symptoms. From the rare epidemiological studies evaluating the potential health effects of consumer products, it is not possible to determine whether the products are the cause of the effects because there are many other factors that might contribute as well. More...

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