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Many cleaners, air fresheners may pose health risks when used indoors

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The products were used in various ways according to package directions: some at full-strength and others at various dilutions as recommended on their labels. In some tests, used cleaning supplies such as paper towels and sponges were left in the room. In others, supplies were promptly removed.

The tests produced various results ?some reassuring, and some raising concerns.

The good news, the researchers reported, is that when people use the products under ordinary circumstances, their exposure to ethylene-based glycol ethers, formaldehyde and fine particles will normally not reach guideline values: that is, levels set by regulatory agencies as the maximum exposure levels believed to be safe. However, the authors pointed out, because formaldehyde is also released from other sources such as plywood and pressed wood products that are found in most buildings, any increase in formaldehyde emissions is undesirable.

In several realistic use scenarios, the tests showed that people could be exposed to potentially dangerous levels of toxic pollutants. The scenarios included:

  • Cleaning in a small, moderately ventilated bathroom. In calculations based on emissions from one of the glycol-ether containing products, the team found that a person who spends 15 minutes cleaning scale off of a shower stall could inhale three times the "acute one-hour exposure limit" for this compound set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
  • Air freshener and ozone in a child's bedroom. This scenario could occur when people use both air fresheners and ozone-generating devices simultaneously in a room. This could lead to exposures to formaldehyde that are 25 percent higher than California's guideline value. Because other sources of formaldehyde could also be present in the room, exposure to formaldehyde would probably be even higher, the report states.
  • Cleaning when outdoor ozone levels are hig
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Source:University of California - Berkeley


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