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
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
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 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).