‘Epidemic’ of fragranced products is affecting our health, says new study
The recent trend for “cleaner,” more natural, unprocessed foods for improved health and well-being has also led to a shift towards household and beauty products that are also more natural and without preservatives, and possibly for a good reason.
According to recent research, consumers’ extra attention to what they are putting on their bodies and in their homes could be beneficial for health, with a new study finding that one in three Australians report health problems related to fragranced products.
Professor Anne Steinemann from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering led a survey of a random sample of 1,098 people taken from a large, web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).
She found that when exposed to fragranced products, 33 percent of Australians suffer a variety of adverse health effects, including breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, rashes, congestion, seizures, nausea and a range of other physical problems.
In addition, the results also showed that 7.7 percent of Australians have lost workdays or a job in the past year due to illnesses caused by exposure to fragranced products in their workplace, and 16.7 percent want to leave a shop or business as quickly as possible if they smell air fresheners or other fragranced products.
“This is an epidemic,” said Professor Steinemann commenting on the findings. “Fragranced products are creating health problems across Australia. The effects can be immediate, severe and potentially disabling. But they can also be subtle, and people may not realize they’re being affected.”
Professor Steinemann’s previous research in the United States found similar results, revealing that 34.7 percent of people experience health problems when exposed to fragranced products.
Fragranced products—which can include air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies and personal care products—give off a range of chemicals including hazardous air pollutants, with Professor Steinemann adding that, “All types of fragranced products tested—even those with claims of ‘green,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘all-natural’—emitted hazardous air pollutants.”
According to Greenbiz, half of all consumer products contain fragrance, and more than 3,000 chemicals can add fragrance to consumer goods worldwide.
Although what product information is required to be disclosed to consumers varies in each country, fragrance ingredients are exempt from full disclosure in any product, not only in the U.S. but also internationally. Often, labeling is vague, with many ingredients just coming under the umbrella of fragrance.
Professor Steinemann’s research will now continue to investigate why fragrance chemicals are causing health problems, and what their effect may be in indoor environments.
The findings can be found published online in the journal “Preventive Medicine Reports” with more information also available on Professor Steinemann’s own website.
Information for consumers about products can also be found on www.ewg.org. JB
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