Air Fresheners Linked to Lung Damage
Chemical in Air Fresheners, Toilet Deodorizers, Mothballs Cuts Lung Function
By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
on Thursday, July 27, 2006
July 27, 2006 -- A chemical found in air fresheners, toilet deodorizers, and mothballs -- and in the blood of 96% of Americans -- may harm the lungs.
The finding comes from a National Institutes of Health study that measured lung function and blood levels of 11 household chemicals in 953 U.S. adults. All 11 chemicals are volatile organic compounds -- chemicals given off as gasses from common household products.
Only one was linked to lung damage: 1,4-dichlorobenzene or 1,4-DCB. You know what it smells like -- mothballs. It's most often used in room deodorizers, urinal and toilet-bowl blocks, and, yes, mothballs.
The 10% of people with the highest blood levels of 1,4-DCB did 4% worse in a test of lung function than the 10% of people with the lowest blood levels of the chemical, found Stephanie J. London, MD, and colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
The researchers called this a "modest reduction" in lung function. But they warn it could be serious for people who suffer or other lung problems. And the reduced lung function test linked to 1,4-DCB is also a risk factor for , , , and death from any cause.
"Even a small reduction in lung function may indicate some harm to the lungs," London said, in a news release.
A 2005 study found that the risk of asthma in children age 6 months to 3 years goes up as their home 1,4-DCB exposure increases.
"This research suggests that 1,4-DCB may exacerbate respiratory diseases," said NIEHS director David A. Schwartz, MD, in a news release.
In some homes and public restrooms, the CDC has detected 1,4-DCB levels that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's minimal risk limit for long-term exposure.
London suggests that people can limit their exposure to 1,4-DCB by reducing their use of products containing the chemical. But that may not be entirely successful.
A 1987 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found 1,4-DCB in the air of 80% of U.S. homes surveyed. Only a third of these homes used products containing the chemical.
The new findings appear in the August issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
SOURCE: Elliott, L. Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2006; vol: 114 pp. 1210-1214.
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