Toxic compounds in scented products but not on product labels
Yuliya Talmazan | July 24, 2008 at 10:43 amby
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Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor of civil and environmental engineering who is behind the study, stated, “Nearly 100 volatile organic compounds were emitted from these six products, and none were listed on any product label. Plus, five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic 'hazardous air pollutants,’ which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe exposure level.”
But even if the dangerous chemicals were listed on product labels, how many people would bother to read a product label on their air freshener? Consumers barely take the time to read food labels, let alone product labels on artificial scent products. And, even if a buyer were curious and did bother to read the label, would an average consumer understand what repercussions the presence of chloromethane or 1,4-dioxane in a room freshener would have for their health? Not unless they have a degree in organic chemistry anyways. So should scented products industry make a better effort to be transparent and communicate clearly not only the nature of chemicals used in their products but also their possible side effects? After all, pharmaceutical industry has to acknowledge major side effects of all their products that are advertised. So, how is scented products industry any different?
Manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients used in laundry products and air fresheners. Personal-care products and cleaners often contain similar fragrance chemicals, Steinemann said. And although cosmetics are required by the Food and Drug Administration to list ingredients, no law requires products of any kind to list chemicals used in fragrances.
National surveys published by Steinemann and a colleague in 2004 and 2005 found that about 20 percent of the population reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and about 10 percent complained of adverse effects from laundry products vented to the outdoors. Among asthmatics such complaints were roughly twice as common.
"Fragrance chemicals are of particular interest because of the potential for involuntary exposure, or second-hand scents," Steinemann said.
For some people, second-hand scent is more serious than second-hand smoke, says to Lindsay McManus of Allergy UK. The onset of symptoms are quicker and can be debilitating, she explains. "Whilst some people might get a mild headache from getting a whiff of perfume from someone walking down the street, others may be very ill for several days."
She reports that a growing number of helpline calls are from sufferers of "fragrance sensitivity", with symptoms including dizziness, fatigue, rashes, hives, watery eyes, sore throat and chest tightness. Fragrance sensitivity has even been blamed for learning disabilities and depression. "Normally the blood expels anything toxic," explains McManus. "With fragrance-sensitive people this may not happen and it can affect the nervous system."
A trade group for the industry rejects the finding, arguing such products face tough U.S. federal requirements that are designed to protect public health.
Uwe PaschenThese members have powered this story: