Fragranced Consumer Products: Exposures and Effects from Emissions

This is a manuscript by Anne Steinemann 2016. For the full text click HERE


Fragranced consumer products, such as cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and personal care products, are a leading source of indoor air pollution. In this study, a random sample of the U.S. population was surveyed to investigate health effects related to emissions from fragranced products. Roughly 35% of this sample population reported one or more types of adverse health effects from exposure. The most common types of health effects included respiratory problems (~20%), mucosal symptoms (~15%), migraine headaches (~15%), skin problems (~10%), and asthma attacks (~10%). Females accounted for a slight majority (~55%) of those reporting adverse outcomes. Over 15% of the population reported the severity of effects to be potentially disabling. In terms of exposure scenario, nearly 25% of people reported health problems from being near someone wearing a fragranced product. Other emissions for which a high fraction of people reported health problems included air fresheners and deodorizers (~20%), scented laundry vented outdoors (~13%), and cleaning products (~20%). When asked about workplace exposure to scented products, 15% of people reported that such exposure has caused them to become sick, lose workdays, or lose a job. Of respondents, over 50% would support a fragrance-free policy in the workplace (compared to 20% who would not). When asked hypothetically about airplanes, nearly 60% of respondents would choose to fly on an airplane that does not pump scented air through the passenger cabin. Over 55% responded similarly when asked about hotels. This survey suggests the potential for economic impacts. Of respondents, 20% would enter a business but then leave as quickly as possible if they smelled fragrance products. The health affects described in this study also raise concerns about liability. Since susceptible individuals may be unable to use restrooms and other facilities due to the presence of fragranced products, it is possible there is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.