New Report Shows Fragrance Risk

Because women perform 70% of housework, they are disproportionately affected by the toxins in cleaner fragrances.© Thinkstock

The nonprofit Women’s Voices for the Earth recently released a report on the dangers of fragrances in household products on consumer health.

Titled "What’s That Smell?", the report is the first to examine the health effects of cleaning products on consumers, particularly women. On average, women are responsible for about 70% of housework according to the nonprofit, significantly increasing their exposure to fragrance chemicals compared to men.

There is currently no legislation that requires cleaning product manufacturers to list their ingredients.

The report looked at 37 scientific studies in order to determine the chemicals that pose the greatest risks. The data focuses on phthalates or synthetic musks and allergens that are common in most cleaning products. Phthalates have been linked to a number of health concerns such as allergies and reproductive malformations in baby boys. Other health risks include increased cancer risk and an increased vulnerability to other toxic chemicals.

Currently, chemicals in fragrances are unregulated. The International Fragrance Research Associate (IFRA) is the industry watchdog, responsible for regulating banned chemicals, conducting research and advancing legislation. But the IFRA is also closely linked to the biggest names in the industry including Givaudan, the global giant with the largest international market share. Although most research is provided to the public, data transparency and an obvious bias lead many to be skeptical of the results.

Two related pieces of legislation will face the Senate in coming months. Minnesota Senator Al Franken has introduced the Household Products Labeling Act which calls for enforced labeling of all fragrance chemicals used in cleaning products. Also, the House of Representatives will be soon voting on the Safe Chemicals Act which requires all chemicals used in household products to be tested for safety.

Source: Women’s Voices for the Earth.

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