Article Summary

Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted

The researchers analyzed 25 popular fragranced consumer products including

• air fresheners and deodorizers (sprays, solids, and oils),

• laundry products (detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets),

• cleaners (all-purpose sprays, disinfectants, and dish detergents), and

• personal care products (soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, shampoos, and baby products).

These products are widely used in the U.S. and other countries in homes, workplaces, schools, airplanes, hospitals, and public places.

What did the researchers discover?

These 25 products emitted 133 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), for a collective total of 421 VOCs, and an average of 17 VOCs per product.

Nearly one-fourth of these VOCs are classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. Each product emitted at least one of these chemicals.

Some of these VOCs are classified as probable carcinogens with no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Virtually none of the VOCs emitted from the products were listed on any product label or material safety data sheet.

But this is legal, because no law in the U.S. requires disclosure of all chemicals in consumer products, or of any chemicals in a mixture called "fragrance."

What about green products?

About half of the products made some claim of "green" or a related term, such as "organic," "natural," "essential oils," or "non-toxic."

But the "green product" emissions of toxic or hazardous chemicals were not significantly different from the other products.

What do these findings mean?

Previous studies have found that most of our exposure to pollutants occurs from common sources, such as consumer products.

However, the ingredients in these sources are not fully disclosed.

Thus, consumers may be unknowingly exposed to potential hazards.