Behavioral factors affecting exposure potential for household cleaning products

Daniel C. Kovacs, Mitchell J. Small, Cliff I. Davidson, Baruch Fischhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Behavioral experiments were performed on 342 subjects to determine whether behavior, which could affect the level of personal exposure, is exhibited in response to odors and labels which are commonly used for household chemicals. Potential for euposure was assessed by having subjects perform cleaning tasks presented as a product preference test, and noting the amount of cleaning product used, the time taken to complete the cleaning task, the product preference, and the exhibition of avoidance behavior. Product odor was found to affect product preference in the study with the pleasant odored product being preferred to the neutral and unpleasant products. Product odor was also found to influence the amount of product used; less of the odored products was used compared to the neutral product. The experiment also found that very few of the subjects in the study read the product labels, precluding analysis of the effect of such labels on product use. A postexperiment questionnaire on household cleaning product purchasing and use was administered to participants. The results indicate that significant gender differences exist. Women in the sample reported more frequent purchase and use of cleaning products resulting in an estimated potential exposure 40% greater than for the men in the sample. This finding is somewhat countered by the fact that women more frequently reported exposure avoidance behavior, such as using gloves. Additional significant gender differences were found in the stated importance of product qualities, such as odor and environmental quality. This study suggests the need for further research, in a more realistic use setting, on the impact of public education, labels, and product odor on preference, use, and exposure for different types of consumer products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-520
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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