Researchers placed a sample of each product in a closed glass container at room temperature and then analyzed the surrounding air for volatile organic compounds, small molecules that evaporate off a product's surface. They detected chemical concentrations ranging from 100 micrograms per cubic meter (the minimum value reported) to more than 1.6 million micrograms per cubic meter.
The most common emissions included limonene, a compound with a citrus scent; alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, compounds with a pine scent; ethanol; and acetone, a solvent found in nail polish remover.
All products emitted at least one chemical classified as toxic or hazardous. Eleven products emitted at least one probable carcinogen according to the EPA. These included acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde and methylene chloride.
The only chemical listed on any product label was ethanol, and the only additional substance listed on a chemical safety report, known as a material safety data sheet, was 2-butoxyethanol.
"The products emitted more than 420 chemicals, collectively, but virtually none of them were disclosed to consumers, anywhere," Steinemann said.
Because product formulations are confidential, it was impossible to determine whether a chemical came from the product base, the fragrance added to the product, or both.
Tables included with the article list all chemicals emitted by each product and the associated concentrations, although they do not disclose the products' brand names.
"We don't want to give people the impression that if we reported on product 'A' and they buy product 'B
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington