What are you breathing? Study finds fragrances contain some surprising ingredients

Researchers at the University of Washington tested 25 cosmetic and cleaning products and found that each item contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with an average of 17 per product.

The researchers claim that many of the VOC’s are classified by the federal law as hazardous or toxic and some are possible carcinogens. These VOC’s are found in the fragrances of the products.

Companies are not required to list ingredients of fragrances. They are protected by trade secret laws and are self-regulated. The products in this study did not list the VOC ingredients on their labels so consumers have no idea they are present.

The study claims that even products labeled as “green”, “natural” or “organic” also contained VOC’s.

Some of the ingredients that were found were…

Acetone- Used in nail polish remover and as paint thinner

Ethanol- Used in drinking alcohol, fuel and solvents

Formaldehyde- Embalming fluid as known as the smelly liquid from biology class

Acetaldehyde- Found in tobacco smoke and car exhaust

Methanol- used in antifreeze, to make fuel and embalming

1,4 Dioxane- EPA classifies as a probable carcinogen and known irritant

Chloromethane- was used as a refrigerant but discontinued to concerns over toxicity and flammability

Methylene Chloride- used as a paint thinner and degreaser and OSHA considers it a potential carcinogen

See University of Washington Professor Anne Steinemann’s  research page for the complete study.

On a personal note: I suffer from migraine headaches caused by fragrances. I am very grateful that the researchers from University of Washington are doing these studies. I hope some day to figure out which chemicals are causing my neurological reactions. I encourage you to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 so that all fragrance ingredients are listed on the labels.

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