About a decade ago, I was riding in an elevator in a hospital complex and I heard two doctors speaking in hushed tones about an air freshener. I thought that was weird. One of them said to the other, “In twenty years we will see how much damage this Febreeze does to millions of people. It’s a bad mix of chemicals.” I thought nothing of it, then. Now I have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). So, today, I used MEDLINE to see if what these doctors said was true. It is true, in spades! From cleaners, to air fresheners, to chemically loaded buildings, chemicals are everywhere!
My opinion? It turns out, people with MCS could do the general public a favor by helping them to identify and remove chemicals that can damage the human central nervous system, alter hormone levels, damage the lungs, liver, and heart, and more. Enforcement of LEED building air quality standards in schools and medical complexes would help millions, just in the USA. People with MCS could help everybody keep air quality high. Call me crazy, but I’d love to see businesses built around this concept. Everybody would win at the end.
FREE FULLTEXT J Toxicol Sci. 2015;40(5):535-50. doi: 10.2131/jts.40.535.
Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects.
Abstract: Air freshener could be one of the multiple sources that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor environment. The use of these products may be associated with an increase in the measured level of terpene, such as xylene and other volatile air freshener components, including aldehydes, and esters. Air freshener is usually used indoors, and thus some compounds emitted from air freshener may have potentially harmful health impacts, including sensory irritation, respiratory symptoms, and dysfunction of the lungs. The constituents of air fresheners can react with ozone to produce secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde, secondary organic aerosol (SOA), oxidative product, and ultrafine particles. These pollutants then adversely affect human health, in many ways such as damage to the central nervous system, alteration of hormone levels, etc. In particular, the ultrafine particles may induce severe adverse effects on diverse organs, including the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Although the indoor use of air freshener is increasing, deleterious effects do not manifest for many years, making it difficult to identify air freshener-associated symptoms. In addition, risk assessment recognizes the association between air fresheners and adverse health effects, but the distinct causal relationship remains unclear. In this review, the emitted components of air freshener, including benzene, phthalate, and limonene, were described. Moreover, we focused on the health effects of these chemicals and secondary pollutants formed by the reaction with ozone. In conclusion, scientific guidelines on emission and exposure as well as risk characterization of air fresheners need to be established.
Eur Respir Rev. 2015 Mar;24(135):92-101. doi: 10.1183/09059180.00000714.
Volatile organic compounds and risk of asthma and allergy: a systematic review.
Abstract: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are ubiquitous domestic pollutants. Their role in asthma/allergy development and exacerbations is uncertain. This systematic review investigated whether domestic VOC exposure increases the risk of developing and/or exacerbating asthma and allergic disorders. We systematically searched 11 databases and three trial repositories, and contacted an international panel of experts to identify published and unpublished experimental and epidemiological studies. 8455 potentially relevant studies were identified; 852 papers were removed after de-duplication, leaving 7603 unique papers that were screened. Of these, 278 were reviewed in detail and 53 satisfied the inclusion criteria. Critical appraisal of the included studies indicated an overall lack of high-quality evidence and substantial risk of bias in this body of knowledge. Aromatics (i.e. benzenes, toluenes and xylenes) and formaldehyde were the main VOC classes studied, both in relation to the development and exacerbations of asthma and allergy. Approximately equal numbers of studies reported that exposure increased risks and that exposure was not associated with any detrimental effects. The available evidence implicating domestic VOC exposure in the risk of developing and/or exacerbating asthma and allergy is of poor quality and inconsistent. Prospective, preferably experimental studies, investigating the impact of reducing/eliminating exposure to VOC, are now needed in order to generate a more definitive evidence base to inform policy and clinical deliberations in relation to the management of the now substantial sections of the population who are either at risk of developing asthma/allergy or living with established disease.
Copyright ©ERS 2015.
Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2009 May;64(3):689-98.
[Risk factor for lifestyle and way of living for symptoms of sick building syndrome: epidemiological survey in Japan]. [Article in Japanese]
Abstract: OBJECTIVES: To investigate the association among symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS). Self-reported questionnaire and indoor environmental surveys of newly build dwellings in Japan were conducted.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The questionnaire included items on symptoms of SBS and lifestyle, and an indoor environmental survey (i.e., mold, mites, and volatile organic compounds (VOC)) was conducted in family rooms of dwellings in Japan (Sapporo, Fukushima, Nagoya, Osaka, Okayama, and Kitakyusyu), from 2004 to 2007.
RESULTS: Data from Osaka in 2004 indicated significant odds ratios for symptoms of SBS for questionnaire items on renovation, air freshener, carpet, use of benzin, use of thinner, use of coating materials, moldiness, smell of house, and feeling of having insufficient sleeping hours. Significant odds ratios were noted for total CFU, Auerbasidum genus, Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus sp., Aureobasidium pullulans, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Fusarium sp., Penicillium sp., Rhodotorula minuta, and Wallemia sebi. Concerning concentrations of VOCs, TVOC, limonene, o,m-tolualdehyde, 2-pentanone, tetrachloroethylene, n-decane, and n-heptane are significantly higher in those who have symptoms of SBS. Significant odds ratios were indicated for questionnaire items on smell of house, stuffiness, moldiness, fustiness, dampness, water leakage, and feeling of having insufficient sleeping hours from data of six areas in Japan in 2004. Continuous data analysis of Osaka from 2004 to 2006 suggested that improvement of symptoms of SBS might be due to lifestyle modification.
CONCLUSION: Mites, molds, VOCs, renovation, moldiness, stuffiness, feeling of having insufficient sleeping hours, carpet use, benzin, thinner, and coating materials, increase the risk of developing symptoms of SBS, whereas modification of lifestyle and ways of living factors might alleviate them.
Environ Int. 2016 Mar;88:288-98. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.12.021. Epub 2016 Jan 28.
Environmental factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders.
Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are highly heterogeneous developmental conditions characterized by deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive/stereotyped patterns of behavior and repetitive movements. Social interaction impairments are the most characteristic deficits in ASD. There is also evidence of impoverished language and empathy, a profound inability to use standard nonverbal behaviors (eye contact, affective expression) to regulate social interactions with others, difficulties in showing empathy, failure to share enjoyment, interests and achievements with others, and a lack of social and emotional reciprocity. In developed countries, it is now reported that 1%-1.5% of children have ASD, and in the US 2015 CDC reports that approximately one in 45 children suffer from ASD. Despite the intense research focus on ASD in the last decade, the underlying etiology remains unknown. Genetic research involving twins and family studies strongly supports a significant contribution of environmental factors in addition to genetic factors in ASD etiology. A comprehensive literature search has implicated several environmental factors associated with the development of ASD. These include pesticides, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, solvents,air pollutants, fragrances, glyphosate and heavy metals, especially aluminum used in vaccines as adjuvant. Importantly, the majority of these toxicants are some of the most common ingredients in cosmetics and herbicides to which almost all of us are regularly exposed to in the form of fragrances, face makeup, cologne, air fresheners, food flavors, detergents, insecticides and herbicides. In this review we describe various scientific data to show the role of environmental factors in ASD.
Clin Dev Immunol. 2013;2013:623812. doi: 10.1155/2013/623812. Epub 2013 Oct 21.
Indoor volatile organic compounds and chemical sensitivity reactions.
Abstract: Studies of unexplained symptoms observed in chemically sensitive subjects have increased the awareness of the relationship between neurological and immunological diseases due to exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, there is no direct evidence that links exposure to low doses of VOCs and neurological and immunological dysfunction. We review animal model data to clarify the role of VOCs in neuroimmune interactions and discuss our recent studies that show a relationship between chronic exposure of C3H mice to low levels of formaldehyde and the induction of neural and immune dysfunction. We also consider the possible mechanisms by which VOC exposure can induce the symptoms presenting in patients with a multiple chemical sensitivity.