Allergens and irritants in household cleaning products – Clinical testing for triggers of asthma and allergies


Allergy Standards Ltd, Dublin 2, Ireland


Guidelines for asthma management recommend regular cleaning regimes for pest control and removal of allergens such as dust and pet dander from the indoor environment. However, many cleaning products on the market contain irritants and allergens that may aggravate symptoms in sensitive individuals particularly those with asthma and allergies. Epidemiological studies have identified a link between cleaning products and respiratory symptoms, however there are few clinical studies that assess the effect of specific ingredients in cleaning products. This paper will review the effect of cleaning products on individuals in a domestic environment through specific inhalation challenges. Furthermore, asthma intervention studies that involve cleaning regimes and the choice of cleaning products will be discussed. Innovation in green and eco-friendly formulations may not necessarily equate to a “human-friendly” formulation. More awareness and research is required in order to assess the impact of cleaning product formulations on an inhabitant’s indoor air environment, and ultimately their respiratory health.


Volatile Chemical Products (VCP) such as personal care products and cleaning agents, are emerging as the main contributor to urban organic emissions. Strikingly, VCP levels are estimated to be ~7 times higher in indoor environments when compared to outside ambient air (1). These VCPs can generate irritants and allergens in the indoor environment and exacerbate symptoms in sensitive individuals suffering from asthma and allergies. In a 2014 study in five European countries (n=1202), exposure to cleaning products was self-reported as an asthma trigger in 42% of patients at an average frequency occurrence of 8.2 weeks in the year.

The most common self-reported trigger was dust or dusting with 72% of participants reporting a reaction at some stage, and an average occurrence of 18.6 weeks in the year (2).
The Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma coordinated by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI) of the National Institutes of Health in the US advise a regular cleaning regime for effective pest control and reduced exposure to allergens (3). Regular cleaning to improve indoor air quality howev ...