Toxic Fumes Are Emitted From Household Cleaners, Cosmetics and Other Consumer Products in U.S. Homes: Study

Popular consumer products emit toxic fumes linked to cancer and organ damage at a higher rate inside U.S. homes than outside, according to researchers.

Amid recent concerns about the potential cancer risk with hair relaxer and perm kits, the findings of a new study suggest that many other consumer cosmetic products and common household cleaning products emit toxic chemical compounds into U.S. homes, which can build up and cause serious health complications.

In findings published this month in the medical journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health warn that hundreds of popular consumer products released more than 5,000 tons of toxic fumes into California homes in 2020.

Although consumer hair care products, cosmetics, cleaners, solvents and other products are sold as safe, there has been growing evidence about toxic risks associated with harmful ingredients in many of these products, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metals, and per-and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS).

These ingredients build up in the body through repeated exposure and are associated with various adverse health effects, including liver and kidney damage, cancer, obesity, hormonal imbalances, and high cholesterol.

Consumer Products Released 5,000 Tons of Toxic Gas In U.S. Homes

In this latest study, researchers focused on identifying which household products emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are liquid or solid ingredients used in consumer goods that change into a gas when exposed to air and sunlight. Certain types of VOCs have been linked to serious health complications like cancer, organ damage, asthma, reproductive impairments, and developmental disorders in children.

Among the most popular consumer products analyzed by researchers were laundry detergent, household cleaners, room deodorizers, paint removers, nail polish, shampoo, makeup, and mothballs.

To track VOC emissions, the researchers analyzed data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which logs the type and amount of VOCs used by makers of consumer goods sold in California. Then they compared that data to information contained in California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Prop 65, which mandates a public database of chemical compounds associated with serious health problems.

The researchers concluded that over 100 types of consumer products used in California homes contained VOCs flagged as toxic by the Prop 65 database. By using product sales statistics, they determined that 5,000 tons of toxic VOC gases were emitted in California from these products in 2020 alone. Since most of the consumer products analyzed are intended for home use, the toxic VOC exposure levels from these goods were higher inside the home than outside.

Cosmetics, Body Care and Cleaning Products Flagged As Most Toxic

Among the most concerning products flagged by researchers were nail polish, shampoo, makeup, and other personal care products, which were found to contain high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Mothballs were also tagged as containing especially high levels of a VOC compound called 1,4-dichlorobenzene, which can cause permanent eye, liver, heart, and skin damage as it breaks down in the body.

Benzene was also a top VOC emitting compound found in the consumer products that were analyzed. It is commonly used in deodorants, detergents, and dishwashing soap. Repeated benzene exposure has been linked to cancer.

Toxic Chemicals in Hair Relaxer Linked to Cancer

In the U.S., hundreds of women are currently pursuing a hair relaxer lawsuit, pointing to a study published last year that found frequent users face a 156% increased risk of developing uterine cancer. The cancer risk has been blamed on the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals and other VOCs in the hair straighteners.


Did you or a loved one use hair relaxer products?

Uterine cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer may be caused by chemicals in hair relaxer. See if you are eligible for benefits.

Learn More About This Lawsuit See If You Qualify For Compensation

In October 2022, findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which warned that chemical hair relaxers may cause uterine cancer. Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health reviewed data on nearly 34,000 women in the United States between the ages of 35 and 74 who completed questionnaires on their use of multiple hair products, including hair dyes, straighteners, relaxers, or pressing products, and permanents or body waves. A 10 year follow-up on the incident rate of uterine cancer diagnosis was performed.

According to the results, researchers identified 378 cases of endometrial cancer or uterine cancer, finding participants who used hair straightening products at least once had the highest rate of cancer diagnosis compared to any other hair products involved in the study. They also had a higher rate of uterine cancer when compared to women who used no hair straightener products.

Following the publication, hundreds of product liability lawsuits are now being pursed in the United States against L’Oreal and other manufacturers of widely used products that contain a variety of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Each of the complaints raise similar allegations, indicating that women were not adequately warned about the toxic chemical compounds used in hair relaxers products, which may cause uterine cancerovarian canceruterine fibroids and other complications.

Find Out If You Qualify for Hair Relaxer Compensation


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