Formaldehyde from Citrus Cleaning Products

Cleaning products and air fresheners can produce formaldehyde. UC Berkeley researchers found that chemicals in pine oils and citrus oils react with ozone in the air, producing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a strong eye, nose, throat, and lung irritant. Formaldehyde is also an asthma trigger and a carcinogen, according to the EPA.

Formaldehyde can cause red watery eyes, sore throats, skin rashes, and sinus infections. Persons with asthma are more likely to have asthma symptoms when exposed to formaldehyde. Health effects appear in many persons at about 0.1 ppm. Formaldehyde concentrations in some homes can exceed 0.3 ppm.

Researchers found elevated exposure to contaminants in the following situations:

  • Cleaning a small bathroom for 15 minutes.
  • Air freshener plus an ozone producing air purifier in a child’s bedroom.
  • Cleaning a kitchen and remaining in the kitchen for two hours on a day when ozone levels are high.

Open windows to increase ventilation and decrease formaldehyde concentration in the home. It is especially important to open windows after using pine or citrus cleaners in warm weather, when ozone is highest. Avoid “air purifiers” that generate ozone. Ozone itself is an irritant, plus it increases formaldehyde concentrations in the presence of common cleaners.

The California Air Resources Board has the following recommendations:

  • Limit the use of pine- or lemon-scented cleaning products or air fresheners, especially on high ozone days.
  • When using cleaning products, avoid use of air cleaning devices that emit ozone.
  • Use only as much of the cleaning product as necessary.
  • Rinse surfaces to remove residual cleaning agents.

Photo from Wiki Commons.

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