Common household chemicals have been linked to health issues including breathing difficulties, cognitive impairment and seizures, new research shows.

A University of Melbourne survey of 1098 people found 71 or 6.5 per cent had a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivities, “a serious disease that is often caused and worsened by exposure to petrochemical sources such as pesticides, solvents, new building materials and fragrance items”.

Researcher Anne Steinemann also found 207 or nearly 19 per cent of respondents reported having a general sensitivity to chemicals.

The results indicated millions of Australians suffered health problems caused and exacerbated by exposure to common household products, she said.

In cases of multiple chemical sensitivities, this includes air fresheners, deodorisers, laundry products and cleaning supplies.

“Even low-level exposure can inflict a range of adverse health effects such as migraines, breathing difficulties, cognitive impairment, seizures and asthma attacks,” Prof Steinemann said.

She recommended people choose household products without fragrance, and for the implementation of fragrance-free policies in environments such as health care facilities and schools.