What Are They?

The household cleaning agents, personal care products, pesticides, paints, hobby products, and solvents that make our lives so easy are also sources of hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals. The range of household products that contain potentially harmful substances that contribute to indoor air pollution is wide-reaching and diverse. Some of these products release contaminants into the air right away; others do so gradually, over a period of time. The harmful components in many household and personal care products can cause dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, and eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation; some can cause cancer. When you use these products, make sure that you are in an area with adequate ventilation.

What Are The Problems?

Contamination from household products, if limited to low levels for short periods of time, does not pose a serious health threat. However, contamination can occur over a long period of time from a variety of sources, and harmful effects can occur. Where there is prolonged exposure and where there is a possible multiplying effect from the presence of contamination from many different products, the effects can be serious, even fatal.

There are four basic rules to follow when using hazardous household products; 1) Whenever possible, avoid using hazardous household products. Use nontoxic alternatives instead. 2) When purchasing household products, buy only as much as you need; do not buy bulk quantities. Store hazardous products and materials carefully. 3) Dispose of hazardous products carefully. 4) Always read the product label and follow manufacturer instructions. 5) Minimize exposure when using hazardous products.

The chart lists the health effects and presents some possible solutions to the problems posed by a few common household products. See the last section on how to obtain a more complete chart.

Where Are They Found?

What Are The Health Effects?

What Are The Solutions?

Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty, and cleaning products

Prolonged or excessive exposure to the particles released into the air by aerosol products may cause headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, eye, throat and lung irritation, skin rashes, burns and liver damage, especially for sensitive people. Another danger is that aerosol containers may explode if exposed to heat, causing burns and very serious injury.

If you use aerosol products, inhale them as little as possible so as to reduce your exposure. Also, do not expose aerosol containers to heat.

Chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleaches can irritate and burn skin and eyes. Even the fumes from chlorine bleach are irritating to eyes and nose. Never mix chlorine bleach with other substances to make a cleaning solution. These mixtures produce very dangerous gases that can be deadly.

If you use chlorine bleach, handle it carefully. Instead of using chlorine bleach as a cleaning agent, make your own cleaning solution by mixing baking soda in water.

Rug and upholstery cleaners

These products may contain some chemicals which, when inhaled excessively, can cause anemia, liver damage, convulsions, and possible coma.

Use soap or non-aerosol shampoo. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.

Other products covered in the Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet include, phosphate detergents, spot removers and dry cleaning fluids, oven cleaners, furniture and floor polish, paints, air fresheners, moth repellants, hobby materials: photography, metalwork, clay and stone, papier-mâché, glues and epoxy, and more.

To obtain a pamphlet containing more household products and their associated risks, or for more information about hazardous household products or about indoor air pollution in general, contact your local American Lung Association. Call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).


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