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EPA-Expo-Box (A Toolbox for Exposure Assessors)

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Consumer Products

Exposure Factors

To estimate human exposure to chemicals in consumer products, exposure factor information is needed. Exposure factors are human behaviors and characteristics that help determine an individual's exposure to an agent. Potential routes of exposure to chemicals released from consumer products include inhalation of particulates, vapors, or aerosols; dermal contact from direct application to the skin (e.g., cosmetics) or contact with residues on surfaces; and incidental ingestion via hand-to-mouth or object-to-mouth contact. Depending on the scenario(s) being evaluated, inhalation rates, ingestion rates, dermal exposure factors such as body surface area, and/or activity-specific factors might be needed.

Data on consumer product use are available in Chapter 17 of EPA’s Exposure Factors Handbook: 2011 Edition. Specifically, Chapter 17 presents summaries of data from consumer product surveys on the amount of product used, the frequency of use, and the duration of use for various consumer products typically found in consumer households. The Handbook categorizes consumer products that are commonly found in U.S. households as follows: cosmetics, hygiene, and baby care products; household furnishings; garment conditioning products; household cleaning and maintenance products; home building or improvement products; automobile-related products; and personal materials. Chapter 17 does not provide a summary of recommended exposure values related to consumer product use—like those summaries provided for other chapters in the Handbook—due to the large range and variation among consumer products and their exposure pathways.

Body surface area, dermal adherence of solids to skin, skin transfer efficiencies, and other factors needed for assessing dermal contact are available in Chapter 7 of the Handbook. Chemical-specific factors related to dermal absorption and internal dose, however, are not provided in Chapter 7. Other activity-specific factors that might be relevant for assessing exposures with contaminants from consumer products are available in Chapter 16 of the Handbook, and these might include time spent indoors, time spent outdoors, or time spent doing specific activities (e.g., cleaning, gardening).

Other exposure factors that may be needed for assessing exposures to contaminants in consumer products include:

  • Non-dietary factors such as mouthing frequency (Chapter 4)
  • Soil and dust ingestion rates (Chapter 5)
  • Inhalation rates (Chapter 6)
  • Body weight (Chapter 8)
  • Life expectancy values, specifically when evaluating cancer risk (Chapter 18)

Exposure factor data may be accessed from the Exposure Factors Tab of the Indirect Estimation Module.

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