Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

Questionable Chemicals Found in Household Products

Many in Industry Question Study’s Findings, Say Fears Unfounded
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 8, 2012 -- Many cleaning and personal care products contain chemicals linked with asthma flare-ups or hormone disruption, according to new research.

On the list: sunscreens, vinyl shower curtains, and fragranced products.

"Consumer products in the home can be a significant source of hormone-disrupting chemicals and asthma-associated chemicals," says Robin Dodson, ScD, a research scientists at Silent Spring Institute. The research organization studies links between the environment and women's health.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Dodson and her team suggest consumers should reduce their use of certain products found to be high in these chemicals for health reasons. However, industry groups say the study is flawed and the safety fears unfounded.

 

Chemicals in Household Products: Study Details

''Asthma is increasing, and we're still trying to figure out why," Dodson tells WebMD. Her team wanted to look at chemicals in household products that might be linked with asthma flare-ups - which are when a person with asthma has a mild to severe attack.

They also looked at chemicals known as hormone disrupters. Hormone disrupters mimic or change the body's own hormones. They can raise concerns for increased risk of certain cancers, Dodson says.

The researchers tested 50 different categories of products. They looked for 66 specific chemicals that have been linked with either asthma flare-ups and/or hormone disruption.

Among the chemicals:

  • Parabens (in cosmetics)
  • Triclosan (found in anti-bacterial soap)
  • Alkylphenols (detergents)
  • UV filters (personal care products)
  • BPA  (containers)
  • Cyclosiloxanes (sunscreens, hair care)
  • Phthalates (plastic products)
  • Fragrances
  • Glycol ethers (cleaning compounds, cosmetics)
  • Ethanolamines (cleaning products)

They looked at 42 types of conventional products and 39 types of alternative products.

The researchers  found 55 chemicals in all.  According to Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of Silent Spring Institute, ‘‘we found 50 chemicals [of the ones on the list] in the conventional samples. Every conventional sample had at least one targeted chemical. We found 41 chemicals in the alternative products.’’ 

Among the products tested:

  • Cat litter
  • Pillow protectors
  • Diapers
  • Cleaners, including glass, floor, and surface cleaners
  • Laundry soap and dishwasher soap
  • Stain removers
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shaving cream
  • Face lotion and cleanser
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Mascara
  • Vinyl and other shower curtains
  • Dryer sheets
  • Air fresheners
  • Perfumes
  • Nail polish
  • Sunscreens

The product labels weren't always accurate at identifying all the chemicals, the researchers say.

1 | 2 | 3

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
 
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
 
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
Slideshow
woman wearing cpap mask
Article
 
red wine pouring into glass
Slideshow
Woman holding inhaler
Quiz
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections