Identifying Toxic Consumer Products: A Novel Data Set Reveals Air Emissions of Potent Carcinogens, Reproductive Toxicants, and Developmental Toxicants

Environ Sci Technol. 2023 May 16;57(19):7454-7465. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.2c07247. Epub 2023 May 2.


Consumer products are important sources of exposure to harmful chemicals. Product composition is often a mystery to users, however, due to gaps in the laws governing ingredient disclosure. A unique data set that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) uses to determine how volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from consumer products affect smog formation holds a partial solution. By analyzing CARB data on VOCs in consumer products, we identified and quantified emissions of volatile chemicals regulated under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act ("Prop 65"). We here highlight individual chemicals as well as consumer product categories that people are likely to be exposed to as individual consumers, in the workplace, and at the population level. Of the 33 Prop 65-listed chemicals that appear in the CARB emissions inventory, we classified 18 as "top tier priorities for elimination". Among these, methylene chloride and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone were most prevalent in products across all three population groups. Of 172 consumer product categories, 105 contained Prop 65-listed chemicals. Although these chemicals are known carcinogens and reproductive/developmental toxicants, they remain in widespread use. Manufacturers and regulators should prioritize product categories containing Prop 65-listed chemicals for reformulation or redesign to reduce human exposures and associated health risks.

Keywords: Prop 65; VOCs; carcinogens; consumer product exposures; emissions; ingredients; regulation; reproductive/developmental toxicants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Humans
  • Reproduction
  • Volatile Organic Compounds*


  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Carcinogens
  • Hazardous Substances