Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Questionable Chemicals Found in Household Products

Many in Industry Question Study’s Findings, Say Fears Unfounded
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
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities