Skip to content

4

Did you ever wonder about all the consumer products that have fragrances in them and whether they are safe to use? Think of all the fragrances in personal care products and perfumes, in air fresheners, scented soaps, cleaning products, scented candles, even laundry detergents, and scented dryer sheets.

Fragrances are made up of many synthetic chemicals - with the "fragrance" in a product typically being a mixture of 50 to 300 chemicals. They are considered an important source of indoor air pollution and can have negative health effects on humans, especially developing fetuses and children. Fragrances are added to products to achieve a desired scent or mask other scents in the product. Air fresheners do not clean or freshen the air, but actually add chemicals to the air to mask other odors. Manufacturers are NOT required to disclose all the ingredients or chemicals in the products, and don't have to disclose any ingredients in any chemical mixture called "fragrance".

The few studies looking at health effects have found negative health effects, including on the lungs, respiratory effects, asthma, allergies, headaches, skin irritation, sensory irritation, hormonal effects, central nervous system effects, and inflammation. But more negative health effects are possible, especially because many of the chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing). We inhale the chemicals or absorb them through the skin, and from there they travel throughout the body - which is why they can be measured in the blood or urine.

Reading the studies that look at the chemicals emitted from scented products that people use every day can be overwhelming. Many of the studies specifically look at VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that the products emit, because these can affect air quality and human health. A big difficulty is that humans are exposed to mixtures of chemicals daily from many products, and the effects may take years to manifest themselves (such as cancer)

Bottom line: avoid, avoid, avoid fragranced or scented products if possible. Do not use scented detergent or dryer sheets (not necessary), do not use air fresheners (either in the home, workplace, or car), do not use incense or scented candles (post on scented candles). Read labels. Opening windows is the best way to air out a house or apartment. Studies find that fragrances labeled "organic", "natural", "green", or "with essential oils" basically emit the same toxic chemicals into the air (view such labels as marketing or "greenwashing") - therefore avoid those also.

Air fresheners are consumer products used in homes or in restrooms that typically emit fragrances,  including incense, scented candles, aerosol liquid wick and electric diffusers, and gels. Depending on which air freshener is used (and including those labeled "all natural"), they emit varying levels of allergens and toxic air pollutants (and which can also combine to produce other pollutants - "secondary pollutants"): acetone, aldehydes, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, terpenes, styrene, esters, phthalates (which are hormone disrupting chemicals), limonene, and also ultrafine particles. None of these toxic chemicals are listed on the product labels. Typically, a fragrance is listed simply as “fragrance,” even though each fragrance can contain hundreds of individual chemicals. Only this past year has one company (Glade) started posting online (but not on the packages) some of the many chemicals used in its scented products.  ...continue reading "Health Reasons to Avoid Fragrances, Air Fresheners, Dryer Sheets"