Nearly every cleaning product in your home may release hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals when used, a study suggests.

Researchers at the Environmental Working Group tested 30 common household products such as glass cleaners, stain removers and air fresheners.

They said that all but one released measurable levels of volatile compounds, or VOCs — tiny toxins linked to cancers, asthma and fertility problems when inhaled. 

Ten products released levels of the chemicals that were so high they breached European safety standards, and the VOCs lingered in the air for up to four hours.

Even some ‘green’ products — that claimed to be safer and more environmentally friendly — released hazardous levels of VOCs, they said.

The researchers added that the study was a ‘wake-up call’ for consumers, saying that people needed to be ‘more aware’ of the risks from cleaning products.

Pictured above are the 29 out of 30 products that released VOCs into the air. They are ranked by the total amount of VOCs released into the air within four hours of use, from most to least released, according to the study. Only one product that was tested — Dr Bronner's pure-castile soap, baby unscented — did not release any VOCs when it was used. Ten products released levels of VOCs that were so high that they breached European safety standards

Pictured above are the 29 out of 30 products that released VOCs into the air. They are ranked by the total amount of VOCs released into the air within four hours of use, from most to least released, according to the study. Only one product that was tested — Dr Bronner's pure-castile soap, baby unscented — did not release any VOCs when it was used. Ten products released levels of VOCs that were so high that they breached European safety standards

Pictured above are the 29 out of 30 products that released VOCs into the air. They are ranked by the total amount of VOCs released into the air within four hours of use, from most to least released, according to the study. Only one product that was tested — Dr Bronner’s pure-castile soap, baby unscented — did not release any VOCs when it was used. Ten products released levels of VOCs that were so high that they breached European safety standards

Four of the worst ten products were all-purpose cleaners. Five were a mixture of glass, floor and carpet cleaners and one was an air freshener.

Dr Alexis Temkin, a senior toxicologist at the EWG, said: ‘This study is a wake-up call for consumers, researchers and regulators to be more aware of the potential risks associated with the numerous chemicals entering our indoor air.

‘Our findings emphasize a way to reduce exposure to hazardous VOCs — by selecting products that are “green”, especially those that are “green” and “fragrance-free”.’

For the study, published in the journal Chemosphere, scientists purchased the most popular cleaning products sold online at stores including Walmart, Amazon and Home Depot between December 2019 and May 2022.

Fourteen of the products claimed on their packaging that they were ‘green’, and therefore less toxic and environmentally friendly.

Each was sprayed onto a glass sheet inside a sealed chamber and then wiped off about a minute later in order to mimic how they are used in the home.

For glass and disinfectant sprays, one full spray was applied, while stain removers and carpet cleaners were sprayed twice and wipe and mopping cloth products were applied until the surface became visibly wet. Air fresheners were sprayed five times.

The air inside the chamber was then tested over the next four hours for the presence of VOCs.

A total of 530 VOCs were released in total by all products combined, according to the study.

Of those, 193 were considered hazardous for human health the EWG said after reviewing Californian and European standards.

For comparison, estimates suggest there are at least 400 VOCs in cigarette smoke.

There are hundreds of household cleaning products on sale in the US — with the market valued at $7.73billion in 2023 alone — with this study capturing just a tiny snap-shot of all those available.

Researchers have known for years that cleaners are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems and asthma than others — which has been linked to their regular exposure to cleaning products. 

Dr David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, told DailyMail.com: ‘There is no established safe exposure value or limit for VOCs nor are there specific health-based regulations for VOC emissions from cleaning products.

‘Some VOCs are much more hazardous than others but which VOCs or VOC mixtures are causing the most harm hasn’t been established.

‘Our results found that about half of the total VOC emissions was from chemicals that have no established safe exposure level even in an industrial setting.’

He added: ‘In the absence of clear research that identifies what chemicals are causing health harm, it is prudent to reduce total VOC exposure.’ 

Ten products released levels of the chemicals that were so high they breached European safety standards, and the VOCs lingered in the air for up to four hours (stock image)

Ten products released levels of the chemicals that were so high they breached European safety standards, and the VOCs lingered in the air for up to four hours (stock image)

Ten products released levels of the chemicals that were so high they breached European safety standards, and the VOCs lingered in the air for up to four hours (stock image)

Conventional products emitted the most VOCs out of all 30 products with HDX glass cleaner, Scott’s liquid gold wood care and Lestoil heavy-duty multi-purpose cleaner the worst offenders according to the study.

Green products, on the other hand, emitted about half as many VOCs, they said, but some still exceeded European measures of potential harm to health.

Those that were categorized as green and fragrance-free released the lowest number, or nearly eight times fewer than conventional products and four times fewer than green products.  

Only one product — Dr Bronner’s pure-castile soap, baby unscented — did not release any VOCs when it was used.

Two of the most harmful VOCs recorded among the products were 2-butoxyethanol and isopropanol.

They are used to help remove grease and oils, kill micro-organisms and remove stains.

The VOCs can cause damage when breathed in over a sustained period and can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, according to the American Lung Association.

A 2021 study also found that VOCs can raise the risk of someone developing conditions like asthma.

Previous studies have shown that 2-butoxyethanol can cause irritation to the eyes, ears and nose, leading to coughing, runny nose and headache, while isopropanol is known to cause a skin rash, itching and dry skin.

Other ingredients used in cleaning products — like phthalates, parabens and alkylphenols — have previously been linked to breast cancer, says Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

Research has previously shown that cleaners — who are regularly exposed to these products — are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma. Women in this field also have a higher risk of lung cancer.

Some studies have also suggested that higher use of certain indoor cleaners in homes with children can raise the risk of youngsters developing asthma. 

The VOCs can also harm the environment, contributing to outdoor air pollution, scientists say.

DailyMail.com has approached the four companies whose products released the most VOCs for comment.

These were Home Depot, which makes HDX glass cleaner, Nakoma Products, behind Scott’s Liquid Gold, the Clorox company, which makes Lestoil, and Fit, behind Fit organic multi-surface cleaner and de-greaser.

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