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Chemical in many air fresheners may reduce lung function

New research shows that a chemical compound found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs and other deodorizing products, may be harmful to the lungs. Human population studies at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, found that exposure to a volatile organic compound (VOC), called 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB) may cause modest reductions in lung function.

"Even a small reduction in lung function may indicate some harm to the lungs," said NIEHS researcher Stephanie London, M.D., lead investigator on the study. "The best way to protect yourself, especially children who may have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, is to reduce the use of products and materials that contain these compounds."

The researchers examined the relationship between blood concentrations of 11 common volatile organic compounds and lung function measures in a representative sample of 953 adults. 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 analyzed, which included benzene, styrene, toluene, and acetone, only the compound 1,4 DCB was associated with reduced pulmonary function and this effect was seen even after careful adjustment for smoking, The researchers 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.

This particular VOC, 1,4 DCB, is a white solid compound with a distinctive aroma, similar to mothballs. It is typically used primarily as a space deodorant in products such as room deodorizers, urinal and toilet bowl blocks, and as an insecticide fumigant for moth control.

"Because people spend so much time indoors where thes
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Source:NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


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