Frangrance can affect our health in many different ways. For anyone interested in lightening their toxic load in 2022 quitting fragrance is a great place to start. The below information is from a 2009 study called “ Fragrance in the Workplace is the new 2nd hand smoke” by Devader, Christy L and Barker, Paxson the full study with references can be found here - http://www.national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation.org/fragsmoke.pdf
Fragrance is a known respiratory irritant and neurological toxin and one in five people in the US experience adverse health effects from synthetic fragrance exposure (Wolff, 2006). For many people, exposure to perfume can pose serious health risks such as migraines, nausea, tightening of the throat, and respiratory impairment in the asthmatic (Canadian Employment Law, 2005). Breathing problems such as hay fever and asthma are found in 15-20% of North Americans and synthetic fragrance exacerbates these problems for many people. The problem with fragrance products is not the scent but the properties of synthetic chemicals are derived from such as petroleum or coal tar. The United States tests less than 10% of products on the market for toxicity and almost one-third of the chemical additives used in perfume are known to be toxic (Rigsby, 1996). Over the past 50 years, 80-90% of fragrances have been synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate, and limonene. The chemicals used to produce the fragrance in a product are protected under trade secret laws and are not listed in the ingredients of a product. Chemical irritants in fragrance can initiate a sensitizing process within an individual’s immune system as it learns to recognize materials that later prompt a response/reaction when re-exposure occurs (Lessenger, 2001). The ingredients in several top household brands of air fresheners include certain Volatile Organic Compounds, chemicals that keep the fragrance molecules airborne so the fragrances linger longer. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases and include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects (US EPA). There are four categories of health effects due to fragrance:
1.Respiratory, which includes allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma, reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
2.Neurological, which includes headaches, migraine headaches, nausea, dizziness, and mental confusion;
3.Skin, urticaria, irritation and sensitization;
4.Eye, irritation, tearing and inflammation.
A strong association is found between bronchial hyper-reactivity (BHR) and respiratory symptoms elicited by synthetic fragrance products (Eberling et al., 2005). Fragrance exposure challenge in patients with asthma decreased forced expiratory volume (FEV) in one second by 18% to 58% and within a survey study of 60 asthmatic patients, 57 patients reported a history of respiratory symptoms on exposure to one or more fragrances (Anderson & Anderson, 1998; Kumar, et al., 1995; Shim, 1986; Schlueter et al., 1979). The negative health effects of fragrance to asthmatics are well researched and documented now for many decades (Kogevinas, et. al., 2007). A study measuring histamine release from exposure to perfume demonstrated a positive association between inflammatory conditions of the skin and airways and perfume exposure (Ebering et al., 2007).
Chemical sensitivity has been diagnosed in 2.9% of the population of NSW, Australia. The number is expected to increase dramatically as the primary care physicians gain more familiarity with MCS and the diagnostic protocols.
The adverse health effects to employees cost employers billions of dollars annually. For example, in 2002 it was estimated that 30.8 million people in the U.S., including 9 million children, had asthma diagnosed at some point in their lives. Other studies have also shown that 10-23% of new adult onset asthma is due to occupational exposures and in 2003; adults missed 24.5 million workdays due to asthma. In 2004, migraine headaches cost American employers $24 billion in direct and indirect healthcare costs. In addition to absences and lost productivity are increased medical and health insurance costs, and costs associated with lawsuits.
There are over 70,000 different industrial chemical products used today. Contrary to popular belief, synthetic fragrance is not found only or even primarily in perfumes. Over 4,000 chemicals are used to make fragrances and hundreds can be used in one product. Many of these chemicals vaporize into the air we breathe. Factors that contribute to the degree, severity, frequency, and type of health risk encountered by workers include toxicity, ventilation, individual sensitivity, dose, duration, and frequency of exposure. The following list of common products in which synthetic fragrance is found can vary widely. Multiple people working in the same work environment use many of these products thus creating a “chemical soup” of the indoor air. Some are associated with people, materials, buildings, and products. Some are introduced by an individual knowingly, many are not. A sampling of these products includes:
Lotion and cream
Prescription and nonprescription medications (e.g., inhalers and sports creams)
Soap (bath soap, dish soap and laundry soap)
Shampoos and conditioners
Air fresheners and deodorizers
Sunscreen Anti-acne products
Industrial and household chemicals
Mouthwash, Dental floss, Toothpaste
Nail polish and removers
Scented pens and pencils
Paper (magazines, newsprint, and stationery)
Disposable razors with creams and softeners added
Some foods (buttered microwave popcorn)
Some scent-free industrial products have higher volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to mask their naturally offensive smells Building, construction and renovation materials — formaldehyde, asbestos, paint, varnish, urethane
Full article and references - http://www.national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation.org/fragsmoke.pdf