The identification of polar organic compounds found in consumer products and their toxicological properties

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. Jan-Mar 1995;5(1):57-75.


Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the indoor environment has received substantial research attention in the past several years, with the goal of better understanding the impact of such exposures on human health and well-being. Many VOCs can arise from consumer products used within the indoor environment. The VOCs emitted from five representative consumer products were collected onto Tenax-GC and subjected to thermal desorption and analysis by gas chromatography, in combination with low-resolution mass spectrometry (MS), high-resolution MS, and matrix-isolation Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy for structural characterization. An emphasis was placed on the polar organic compounds often used to provide fragrance in these products. The structures of a number of these compounds were confirmed, and an electronic literature search was carried out on them to determine any known toxic properties. The search revealed that many of the VOCs possess toxic properties when studied at acute, relatively high-level exposures. In addition, toxic effects were reported for a few of the chemicals, such as benzaldehyde, alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, and ethanol, at relatively low dose levels of 9-14 mg/kg. In general, the data were unclear as to the effect of chronic, low-level exposures. The widespread use of such chemicals suggests that the health effects of chronic exposures need to be determined. Validated analytical methods for the quantitative characterization of polar organic compounds at low concentrations will be required to make such work possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • Animals
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / isolation & purification*
  • Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Perfume / chemistry*
  • Rodentia
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Volatilization


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Perfume