Fragrance Products Cause More Severe Allergic Reactions Than Previously Believed: Study

Severe health problems result from nearly half of all allergic reactions caused by fragranced products, such as air fresheners, according to new research. 

In a study published in the March issue of the medical journal Preventive Medicine Reports, one-third of people surveyed experience side effects from products with fragrances, with many of those problems resulting in lost time from work.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering conducted an on-line survey involving more than 1,100 Australians in June 2016, asking about their experiences with air fresheners, cleaning supplies and personal care products that contained fragrances.

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More than one-third of Australians reported side effects from fragranced products, including repository problems, migraine headaches and asthma attacks.

About 17% of people experienced coughing or shortness of breath, 14% experienced nasal congestion or watery eyes, 10% said they had migraines, nine percent experienced rashes or hives, seven percent had an asthma attack, five percent experienced dizziness or even fainted, four percent had trouble with memory and difficulty concentrating and three percent experienced gastrointestinal problems, like an upset stomach.

More than half of the health affects experienced among all survey participants could be considered disabling. Researchers said many of the side effects to fragranced products resulted in lost workdays and lost jobs. For some participants, they experienced restricted access in society due to an illness from fragrances in the workplace.

Overall, about 16% of people reported health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers. About 15% said they experienced problems after a room was cleaned with scented products and another 16% said they would enter a business, but leave quickly if fragranced products were used.

Researchers said twice as many people prefer fragrance-free areas to fragranced indoor environments, where products like air fresheners were used.

More than 73% of participants were not aware that fragranced products emitted hazardous air pollutants, even those labeled as green and organic. About 56% of those people would not continue to use the product if they knew it contained harmful fragranced chemicals.

This is the first study in Australia to focus on the extent of adverse health effects from fragranced products.

“It provides compelling evidence for the importance and value of reducing fragranced product exposure in order to reduce and prevent adverse health effects and costs,” the researchers noted.

Researchers recommend people who want to avoid fragrances could open windows for ventilation, stop using air fresheners completely, and use natural products to clean surfaces, such as vinegar and baking soda.


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