Study of Interest: Volatile Organic Compound Emissions from Disinfectant Usage in the Home and Office

Our team at the Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) Program at UT Health San Antonio wanted to share this important external resource on indoor air quality:

Volatile Organic Compound Emissions from Disinfectant Usage in the Home and Office” from researchers led by Nancy A.C. Johnston from the Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho.

Of the disinfectants studied, Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner+Bleach Original contributed the highest concentrations of VOCs to indoor air, especially chloroform, which accounted for 48% of total VOCs…
Diluted Clorox Regular Bleach produced lower concentrations of emissions than the Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner+Bleach Original, which shared the same active ingredient, hypochlorite…
Options to reduce VOC exposures are to use products containing hydrogen peroxide, nonscented products, maintain proper ventilation, open doors or windows, and leave the room for an hour. Although we observed great variability among disinfectants and indoor space types, our study shows many VOCs are indeed present during usage, and further investigation should be conducted on potential health risks.

This issue is important for people who experience chemical intolerance, said Dr. Claudia Miller, allergist/immunologist, professor emeritus, and leader of the Hoffman TILT Program at UT Health San Antonio.

Bleach and other disinfectants are frequent symptom triggers for individuals who suffer from chemical intolerance, Miller said.

“For individuals who suffer from chemical intolerances, COVID-19 posed huge challenges. Disinfectants were widely used, outgassing face masks and respirators often provoked symptoms, and many had difficulty tolerating vaccines,” Miller said. “For the elderly and medically vulnerable, the pandemic was especially isolating. More than ever it was difficult to enjoy celebrations, play with grandchildren, travel or participate in group activities except out of doors. There was one distinct advantage, however—one could stay home and not be subjected to fragrances worn by others.”

How chemically sensitive are you?

Answer these three questions from Hoffman TILT’s Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (BREESI):

  1. Do you feel sick when you are exposed to tobacco smoke, certain fragrances, nail polish/remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners, pesticides, paint/thinner, fresh tar/asphalt, cleaning supplies, new carpet or furnishings? By sick, we mean: headache, difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, etc.
  2. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse or allergic reactions to any drugs or medications (such as antibiotics, anesthetics, pain relievers, X-ray contrast dye, vaccines or birth control pills), or to an implant, prosthesis, contraceptive chemical or device, or other medical/surgical/dental material or procedure?
  3. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse reactions to any foods such as dairy products, wheat, corn, eggs, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, or food additives (e.g., MSG, food dye)?

If you answer YES to any of these three questions, take the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) and share the results with your doctor!