Human population studies at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health, found that exposure to the volatile organic compound 1,4 dichlorobenzene may cause modest reductions in lung function, according to the study in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The researchers found that 96 percent of the population samples had detectable 1,4 DCB blood concentration levels -- African-Americans had the highest exposure levels, while non-Hispanic whites had the lowest.
This particular VOC, 1,4 DCB, is a white solid compound with a distinctive aroma similar to that of mothballs. It is typically used primarily as a space deodorant in products such as room deodorizers, urinal and toilet-bowl blocks and as an insecticide fumigant for moth control, say the researchers.
"Because people spend so much time indoors where these products are used, it's important that we understand the effects that even low levels might have on the respiratory system," said Leslie Elliott.