• Chromatography Investigates the Hidden Health Implications of Pandemic Cleaning Products

Chromatography Investigates the Hidden Health Implications of Pandemic Cleaning Products

Sep 23 2020 Read 366 Times

One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is an increased use of cleaning products. Air fresheners, disinfectants, soap, hand sanitizers and multipurpose surface cleaners have all seen an increase in sales and use. A large part of the discussion about these products has been around their effectiveness at killing the coronavirus to keep us safe – more is better. But what about the emissions from these products?

As we use more cleaning products, whether by cleaning more frequently or using more product, our chemical exposure to the ingredients used and the products themselves increases. The products that are meant to protect us from harm could be causing us harm. In a recent study published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, researchers analysed what is emitted from the products and could they pose a hazard to human health? They also looked at whether ‘green’ or ‘natural’ products are different from standard cleaning products with respect to their emissions. And chromatography was key to answering this cleaning conundrum.

Cleaning for health?

Government advice is that employers must protect people from harm, which includes taking steps to protect workers from coronavirus and Covid-19. The virus can transfer between people, from people to surfaces and passed on to people who then come into contact with those surfaces. It is the same at home and in public areas like buses and shops. Keeping surfaces clean and frequent handwashing or sanitizing are recommended to reduce the potential for transmission of the virus.

But cleaning and disinfection products have a history of having an effect on health – hence the warnings on correct usage of products. Previous studies have reported unfavourable outcomes linked to the chemical exposure from cleaning products. Conditions such as migraine headaches, asthma attacks and dermatological problems have all been related to chemicals exposure to chemicals used in cleaning products.

Chromatography helps assess the risk

For the study mentioned above, researchers analysed the emissions from 26 common cleaning and disinfectant products on sale in the United States and Australia. These included hand sanitizers, multipurpose cleaners, disinfectants, and soaps. All the products were fragranced, and the products included green and natural products. The volatile ingredients were analysed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The use of GC to analyse volatile components is discussed in the article, Analysis and Identification of Mezcal and Tequila Aromas by Ambient Ionisation MS, GC-MS, and GCxGC-MS.

The researchers identified 172 different volatile compounds in the 26 products tested, with approximately 37%, of the VOCs are classified as potentially hazardous. The most prevalent VOC detected was limonene, in both the regular and green products. Other potentially hazardous VOCs include ethanol, acetaldehyde and 3-carene. The team found no significant differences between the ‘green’ and ‘regular’ products. Of concern was that these hazardous chemicals are not disclosed to the public – which is allowed by the regulations.

Reader comments

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.

Post a Comment

Digital Edition

Chromatography Today - September 2020

September 2020

In This Edition Articles Fundamental Aspects - Analysis and Identification of Mezcal and Tequila Aromas by Ambient Ionisation MS, GC-MS, and GCxGC-MS - Analysis of Polynuclear Aromatic Hy...

View all digital editions


Eastern Analytical Symposium

Nov 16 2020 ONLINE EVENT


Feb 07 2021 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Mar 06 2021 New Orleans, LA, USA

ACS National Meeting & Expo, Spring 2021

Mar 21 2021 Philadelphia, PA, USA


Mar 22 2021 Dubai, UAE

View all events