Certain deodorising products, including air fresheners and toilet bowl cleaners, contain a chemical compound which scientists say may be harmful to the lungs.
Stephanie London and her colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) examined 953 adults exposed to various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and found that one compound called 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB) may cause modest reductions in lung function, reported science portal EurekAlert.
VOCs are a diverse set of compounds emitted as gases from thousands of commonly used products, including tobacco smoke, pesticides, paints, and cleaning products. VOCs are also released through automotive exhaust.
The researchers found that of the common VOCs analysed, which included benzene, styrene, toluene, and acetone, only the compound 1,4 DCB was associated with reduced pulmonary function.
They found that 96 percent of the population samples had detectable 1,4 DCB blood concentration levels.
African Americans had the highest exposure levels and non-Hispanic whites the lowest.
1,4 DCB is a white solid compound with a distinctive aroma similar to mothballs. It is typically used as a deodorant in products such as room deodorisers, urinal and toilet bowl cleaners, and as an insecticide fumigant for moth control.
Because people spend so much time indoors where these products are used, it's important that we understand the effects that even low levels might have on the respiratory system, said researcher Leslie Elliott.