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‘Non-toxic’ Scented Products Release Toxic Chemicals

Posted Nov 08 2010 12:00am
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From cosmetics to detergents to diapers, we live in a world of scents that might be making us sick, suggests a new study, even when those fragrances come from products that claim to be natural and pure.

In an analysis of 25 of the most commonly used scented products – including ones labeled "organic," "natural" or "non-toxic" – scientists identified at least 133 chemicals wafting off of them. A quarter of those chemicals were classified as hazardous or toxic. Virtually none were listed on product labels.

The gist of the study, according to Discovery News :

  • Even when labeled "natural" or "non-toxic," scented products emit toxic chemicals that rarely appear on labels.
  • A growing number of people may be developing sensitivities to fragrances.
  • Experts suggest cleaning with baking soda and vinegar, and buying products that are as free of fragrances as possible.

"If these were coming out of a smokestack or a tailpipe, they would be regulated," said lead author Anne Steinemann, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Washington in Seattle. "If they are in a hand soap or air freshener, they are not."

What can you do?

1. DIY. Make your own personal care products and cleaners when possible:

2. Learn to be a label detective. Many claims on products are not regulated. Use Consumer Reports Label Guide as a first step.

  • Demand full ingredient disclosure. Support companies that tell you exactly what’s in their products. Check company websites and email or call if it’s not publicly accessible.
  • Be cautious even with “natural” scents. Natural does not equal safe (think of poison ivy). People can have adverse reactions to essential oils – so no matter what you’re using, watch for any reactions.

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