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Asthma Health Center

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Questionable Chemicals Found in Household Products

Many in Industry Question Study’s Findings, Say Fears Unfounded

Chemicals in Household Products: More Findings

Some products had higher levels of the chemicals than others, Dodson tells WebMD.

Sunscreens and products with fragrances such as dryer sheets, air freshener, and perfume had the highest concentrations of the potentially hazardous chemicals, she says. "We found substantial levels of DEHP in the vinyl shower curtain," she says. "It was 28% by weight."

DEHP is a phthalate and a hormone disrupter. It has also been linked with respiratory symptoms, the researchers say.

"The pillow protectors, which a lot of asthmatics use, we found [had] DEHP 14% by weight," Dodson says.

Chemicals in Household Products: Perspective

The new research "confirms many of our concerns about the widespread use of suspect chemicals in consumer products, particularly air fresheners, dryer sheets, and sunscreens," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization.

She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

Because the chemicals are widespread, she says, "the findings remind us how difficult it can be to avoid exposure to these ubiquitous hazards."

There are some simple ways to reduce exposures, Dodson says. "Probably the easiest thing to do is just use fewer products," she says.

Switching from a vinyl shower curtain to a cotton or nylon curtain is another option, she says. They were free of the chemicals.

Using unscented or no-dryer sheets is another option, she says. Some sunscreens and hair products are fragrance-free, the researchers say.

Ultimately, consumers need more information on labels to figure out which chemicals they are being exposed to, Dodson says.

Chemicals in Household Products: Industry Speaks Out

The presence of the chemicals in household products proves nothing, according to Linda Loretz, PhD, senior scientist and director of safety and regulatory toxicology for the Personal Care Products Council, an industry group.

In a press release, she says: "Equating the mere presence of certain chemicals in products with potential harm is wrong and needlessly scares consumers about products that have a wealth of scientific data to support their safety."

Among other criticisms, she says that sunscreens are cited in the study as endocrine-disruptors based only on screening assays "with no proven relevance for humans." Ingredients found are at ''normal levels for sun protection" and are FDA-approved, she says.

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