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Allergies Health Center

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Fragrances May Emit Potential Toxins

Study Shows Fragranced Products Emit Chemicals Considered Hazardous; Industry Says Products Are Safe

Lab Tests of Fragranced Products continued...

Of the identified VOCs, 10 are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal law, with three of those classified as hazardous air pollutants, she says. The three classified as hazardous air pollutants include acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4 dioxane.

Many products contained one or more of the VOCs. The plug-in air freshener, for instance, included 20 different VOCs, including seven regulated as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws.

Among other VOCs detected were acetone, the ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover, and limonene, a molecule with a citrus scent.

But the product label lists none of the VOCs -- classified as hazardous or otherwise.

In an analysis of federal law, she says, she found that "no law requires disclosures of all chemicals in fragrances."

"If an ingredient is hazardous they [the manufacturers] still don't need to list it," she says. "They can just put on a warning label," she says, such as ''Don't inhale."

Steinemann won't specify what the brands were. One of the air fresheners tested is used, she says, in the bathrooms of commercial airliners; the spray air freshener tested is often used in schools and health care facilities, and the plug-in air freshener is used in homes.

Her study is published online in Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

Fragranced Products: Industry Response

Industry representatives took strong exception to the study.

"There is really nothing useful here for consumers, regulators, or manufacturers," Sansoni says. "They are trying to raise all these red flags, and the amount of ingredients in these products is not known to cause any problems."

While all ingredients don't have to be listed on a label, he says, certain information does have to be given consumers under the guidelines of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act if a potential hazard exists. Listing all the ingredients on a label is unrealistic, he says. Sometimes there are so many they would not fit.

In a prepared statement, another industry group, the Fragrance Materials Association of the United States, points out that the VOCs found in the products are at low levels. The same VOCs are actually found, sometimes in higher levels than in the fragranced products, in everyday items, including food, according to the statement.

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