From our hand soap to our surface spray, our body wash to our perfume, air fresheners and candles, household cleaners and laundry liquid; scents are all around us. This may not make any sense according to gathering research.
Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and well-being occurs indoors. A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures are dyes, smoke, sealants, fire retardants and now fragrances. Common fragranced consumer products include air fresheners, cleaning products, washing powder/liquid, and deodorants/body sprays and perfumes.
Do you feel unwell when you’ve been indoors for a few days or do you have symptoms that you think must be related to food sensitivities?
Exposure to fragranced products have been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms In two previous surveys, it was found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers.
Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone in our households to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Even some so-called ‘green’, ‘atural’ and ‘organic’ fragranced products emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular fragranced products because it may only include 1 ingredient of better quality. Little information exists, however, on potentially hazardous compounds emitted from fragranced products, in part because products are not required to disclose all ingredients. Thus, knowledge of potential exposures and effects is essential to effective risk reduction.
Imagine this common scenario; you recently buy an expensive candle ‘made with the finest natural ingredients’. You open it and on the back it says ‘extremely hazardous to aquatic life’ and ‘may trigger allergic reactions’. Made in China. It doesn’t state what the wax is, so it’s probably the cheapest material- paraffin. So apart from being useful for lighting the room, the company stated it’s selling something really toxic at the same time as stating it has ‘finest natural ingredients’.
Not so relaxing to breath that scented candle any more…
There are now calls for fragrance free zones as well as smoke-free zones being initiated in the US and Australia. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.”
For health professionals and patients, when faced with health problems such as headaches, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, rashes, asthma, and others, consider the possibility that fragranced products could be a contributor. Many people who believe that food may be making them ill may be surprised that even their favourite perfume may be the culprit.
Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution.
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