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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2008 Sep;15(6):521-6. doi: 10.1007/s11356-008-0028-x. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

Volatile pollutants emitted from selected liquid household products.

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Department of Indoor Environment, National Institute of Environment Research, Incheon, South Korea.



To identify household products that may be potential sources of indoor air pollution, the chemical composition emitted from the products should be surveyed. Although this kind of survey has been conducted by certain research groups in Western Europe and the USA, there is still limited information in scientific literature. Moreover, chemical components and their proportions of household products are suspected to be different with different manufacturers. Consequently, the current study evaluated the emission composition for 42 liquid household products sold in Korea, focusing on five product classes (deodorizers, household cleaners, color removers, pesticides, and polishes).


The present study included two phase experiments. First, the chemical components and their proportions in household products were determined using a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer system. For the 19 target compounds screened by the first phase of the experiment and other selection criteria, the second phase was done to identify their proportions in the purged-gas phase.


The number of chemicals in the household products surveyed ranged from 9 to 113. Eight (product class of pesticides) to 17 (product class of cleaning products) compounds were detected in the purged-gas phase of each product class. Several compounds were identified in more than one product class. Six chemicals (acetone, ethanol, limonene, perchloroethylene (PCE), phenol, and 1-propanol) were identified in all five product classes. There were 13 analytes occurring with a frequency of more than 10% in the household products: limonene (76.2%), ethanol (71.4%), PCE (66.7%), phenol (40.5%), 1-propanol (35.7%), decane (33%), acetone (28.6%), toluene (19.0%), 2-butoxy ethanol (16.7%), o-xylene (16.7%), chlorobenzene (14.3%), ethylbenzene (11.9%), and hexane (11.9%). All of the 42 household products analyzed were found to contain one or more of the 19 compounds.


The chemical composition varied broadly along with the product classes or product categories, and it was different from that reported in other studies abroad, although certain target chemicals were identified in both studies. This finding supports an assertion that chemical components emitted from household products may be different in different products and with different manufacturers. The chlorinated pollutants identified in the present study have not been reported to be components of cleaning products in papers published since the early 1990s. Limonene was identified as having the highest occurrence in the household products in the present study, although it was not detected in any of 67 household products sold in the U.S.


The emission composition of selected household products was successfully examined by purge-and-trap analysis. Along with other exposure information such as use pattern of household products and the indoor climate, this composition data can be used to estimate personal exposure levels of building occupants. This exposure data can be employed to link environmental exposure to health risk. It is noteworthy that many liquid household products sold in Korea emitted several toxic aromatic and chlorinated organic compounds. Moreover, the current finding suggests that product types and manufacturers should be considered, when evaluating building occupants' exposure to chemical components emitted from household products.


The current findings can provide valuable information for the semiquantitative estimation of the population inhalation exposure to these compounds in indoor environments and for the selection of safer household products. However, although the chemical composition is known, the emissions of household products might include compounds formed during the use of the product or compounds not identified as ingredients by this study. Accordingly, further studies are required, and testing must be done to determine the actual composition being emitted. Similar to eco-labeling of shampoos, shower gels, and foam baths proposed by a previous study, eco-labeling of other household products is suggested.

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