Pandemic products and volatile chemical emissions

Anne Steinemann, Neda Nematollahi, Behzad Rismanchi, Nigel Goodman, Spas D. Kolev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The recent pandemic (COVID-19) has seen a sweeping and surging use of products intended to clean and disinfect, such as air sprays, hand sanitizers, and surface cleaners, many of which contain fragrance. However, exposure to fragranced cleaning products has been associated with adverse effects on human health. Products can emit a range of volatile chemicals, including some classified as hazardous, but relatively few ingredients are disclosed to the public. Thus, relatively little is known about the specific emissions from these products. This study investigates the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from “pandemic products” that are being used frequently and extensively in society. In addition, among these emissions, this study identifies potentially hazardous compounds, compares so-called green and regular versions of products, and examines whether ingredients are disclosed to the public. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, 26 commonly used pandemic products, including 13 regular and 13 so-called green versions, were analyzed for their volatile emissions. Product types included hand sanitizers, air disinfectants, multipurpose cleaners, and handwashing soap. All products were fragranced. The analyses found the products collectively emitted 399 VOCs with 127 VOCs classified as potentially hazardous. All products emitted potentially hazardous compounds. Comparing regular products and green products, no significant difference was found in the emissions of the most prevalent compounds. Further, among the 399 compounds emitted, only 4% of all VOCs and 11% of potentially hazardous VOCs were disclosed on any product label or safety data sheet. This study reveals that pandemic products can generate volatile emissions that could pose risks to health, that could be unrecognized, and that could be reduced, such as by using fragrance-free versions of products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalAir Quality, Atmosphere and Health
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

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