Common Odorants Not People- or Pet-Friendly
Today’s 60-Second Science podcast from Scientific American exposes some eye-opening information on the odorants added to products like detergents and air fresheners. Apparently, the manufacturers of these products are not required to list all the ingredients in their them. So — instead of listing all the odorant chemicals in the product, the labels often simply state that they contain a “mixture of perfume oils.” Thanks FDA!
After hearing that many people reported feeling sick when exposed to strong scents in many of these products (count me in as one of those people – I DETEST artificial odorants), Dr. Anne Steinemann of University of Washington analyzed several of the products. From SciAm:
According to her report in the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review, plug-in air fresheners, scented sprays, dryer sheets and detergents all contained a mixture of volatile organic compounds.
(…) five out of the six products Steinemann tested emitted one or more so-called hazardous air pollutants, which are carcinogens determined to have no safe exposure level by the EPA. While the study did not test for any human health risk from exposure to these chemicals, Steinemenn says the next time the air in the house smells stale, maybe you just open a window.
Medicinenet.com reported that:
Steinemann decided to do the study, she tells WebMD, after receiving more than 200 consumer complaints about side effects from fragranced products.
“I actually witnessed someone having a seizure when exposed to an air freshener,” she says. She picked six fragranced products — laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, and air fresheners in solid, spray, and oil form.
In a laboratory, she put each product in an isolated space at room temperature. Then she analyzed the surrounding air for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — small molecules that evaporate from the surface of the product into the air. She used advanced methods called gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify the VOCs.
Thank you Dr. Steinemann for reminding my why I gave up fabric softeners and now make my own laundry detergent and air freshener spray. Also big thanks to bff Audrey who made me a couple of batches of laundry detergent (one liquid and one dry), gave me a kit and some recipes and got me hooked on the best, cleanest — and cheapest — way to clean clothes.
MedHeadlines.com reports that:
In the current study of the six products, Steinmann found almost 100 different VOCs emitted by the products under scrutiny. None of the products listed any of the toxic ingredients on their labels. Of the six products, five of them emitted at least one carcinogenic substance classified as a “hazardous air pollutant” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for which there is no known safe level of exposure.
Of all the VOCs revealed in Steinmann’s analysis, 58 of them tested above the 300 micrograms per cubic meter mark, a level considered hazardous or toxic for them all, according to EPA standards. The plug-in air freshener alone emitted more than 20 VOCs. The product’s label listed these toxic VOCs as simply a “mixture of perfume oils.”
There are no regulations in the United States that require ingredients labels to list all substances used in the manufacture of personal care and grooming products, laundry products, and air fresheners. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires an ingredients list for cosmetics but no federal agency requires a list of the chemicals required to produce the fragrances the cosmetics or other products emit.
So, let’s get this straight. If I am buying a personal care or grooming product, a laundry product, or an air freshener — the FDA doesn’t care what kind of toxic waste ingredients the manufacturer puts in it? Lovely.
In a bit of unfortunate (for the manufacturer, Proctor & Gamble) timing, Febreze issued a PR release last week announcing their new “pet-friendly collection.” The release states that:
Febreze, the leading line of home freshening products and a favorite among pooches and purrs, is extending its revolutionary Pet Odor Eliminator technology into a complete pet-friendly collection. Febreze Fabric Refresher and Air Effects Pet Odor Eliminator offerings will be joined this summer by Febreze Candles Pet Odor Eliminator and Febreze NOTICEables Pet Odor Eliminator, delivering breaths of fresh air to pet-loving homes across the country.
Unlike many air fresheners that just cover up pet odors with a heavy perfume, Febreze Pet Odor Eliminator products eliminate pet odors in the air while at the same time delivering a light, fresh scent. Febreze has come full circle with the entire line, now offering pet owners a wider array of tools to de-stink and freshen up, while maintaining a happy and healthy home for their furry loved ones.
Happy maybe. Healthy — now that’s debatable. Given the results of Dr. Steinemann’s research, I think I’ll either open my windows to blow bad odors out of my home, or I’ll use a home-made essential oil spray to cover them up.