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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Minnesota: Method Created for Estimating Chemical Exposure When Using Household Cleaning Products

Every day, Americans clean their homes and businesses with household cleaning products that most assume are safe. But is that actually the case? The truth is a majority of chemicals in these products are thought to be safe due to being non-toxic. However, the exposure amount or time that is safe for using those products before possibly suffering bad health effects was probably never tested, likely because researchers and regulators have lacked a reliable method to do so.

“When you think about how we use products — how much, how long or how frequently we use them — all of those factors can add up to how much of a chemical we are exposed to,” said University of Minnesota School of Public Health assistant professor Dr. Susan Arnold. “But, measuring exposure is complicated, expensive and you can’t just put a sensor on someone who’s using the product and get an accurate number.”

To help protect consumers, Dr. Arnold has developed and evaluated a method to predict the amount of chemical evaporating from liquid household cleaners and estimate the amount people would be exposed to over time. The results were published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Epidemiological Research.

“This means the model and generation rate could be beneficial for risk assessors and product companies because it can reveal formulations containing chemicals that can trigger or aggravate health problems, such as asthma,” said Dr. Arnold. “In response, they might consider reducing the levels of the potentially irritating chemicals or provide warnings or instructions on the packaging describing how to use the product in a way that’s safest.”

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