What are the health hazards of exposure to fragrances in consumer products and cosmetics? How can our regulatory system effectively address such hazards?
Molly Rauch, MPH
November 3, 2011
Fragranced consumer products are ubiquitous. In
addition to products sold explicitly as fragrance, such as perfumes and air
fresheners, fragrance is added to a wide range of products such as shampoos,
soaps, makeup, laundry products, household cleaners, candles, and toys. The smell
of a product often guides our consumer choices. But does it also influence our
The complex and proprietary
mix of industrial chemicals added to consumer products as fragrance is
unstudied and largely unregulated. There is scant information about the safety
of most chemicals in consumer products; our chemicals regulatory system, across
many agencies and statutes, requires only the most minimal testing for adverse
health effects. At the same time, the presence of chemicals in products is
often undisclosed, as our regulatory system values the importance of
confidential business information – often above public health. This leaves
healthcare providers and consumers with little information about the health
effects of the products they are using every day, in particular the mix of
chemicals that comprise the fragrance in a product.
There is much that we don’t know, but the
little information we do have about fragrances points to the presence of
potentially dangerous chemicals in these complex synthetic mixtures.
Coughing and headaches at work - The cause may be sitting right next to you
Evelyn I. Bain MEd, RN, COHN-S. FAAOHN
What's that smell? The not so sexy truth about fragrance
Health Hazards of Fragrance in Cleaning Products: What You Don't Know Might Hurt You
Fragranced Consumer Products: Science, Health, and Policy Implications
Anne Steinemann, PhD
The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.