Archive for category ‘Air Pollution‘

Scented consumer products shown to emit many unlisted chemicals

University of Washington

For Immediate Release

Oct. 26, 2010

The sweet smell of fresh laundry may contain a sour note. Widely used fragranced products – including those that claim to be “green” – give off many chemicals that are not listed on the label, including some that are classified as toxic.

A study led by the University of Washington discovered that 25 commonly used scented products emit an average of 17 chemicals each. Of the 133 different chemicals detected, nearly a quarter are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law. Only one emitted compound was listed on a product label, and only two were publicly disclosed anywhere. The article is published online today in the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

“We analyzed best-selling products, and about half of them made some claim about being green, organic, or natural,” said lead author Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. “Surprisingly, the green products’ emissions of hazardous chemicals were not significantly different from the other products.”

More than a third of the products emitted at least one chemical classified as a probable carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and for which the EPA sets no safe exposure level.

Manufacturers are not required to disclose any ingredients in cleaning supplies, air fresheners or laundry products, all of which are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Neither these nor personal care products, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, are required to list ingredients used in fragrances, even though a single “fragrance” in a product can be a mixture of up to several hundred ingredients, Steinemann said.

So Steinemann and colleagues have used chemical sleuthing to discover what is emitted by the scented products commonly used in homes, public spaces and workplaces. The study analyzed air fresheners including sprays, solids and oils; laundry products including detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets; personal care products such as soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorant and shampoos; and cleaning products including disinfectants, all-purpose sprays and dish detergent. All were widely used brands, with more than half being the top-selling product in its category.

Researchers placed a sample of each product in a closed glass container at room temperature and then analyzed the surrounding air for volatile organic compounds, small molecules that evaporate off a product’s surface. They detected chemical concentrations ranging from 100 micrograms per cubic meter (the minimum value reported) to more than 1.6 million micrograms per cubic meter.

The most common emissions included limonene, a compound with a citrus scent; alphapinene and beta-pinene, compounds with a pine scent; ethanol; and acetone, a solvent found in nail polish remover. All products emitted at least one chemical classified as toxic or hazardous.

Eleven products emitted at least one probable carcinogen according to the EPA. These included acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde and methylene chloride. The only chemical listed on any product label was ethanol, and the only additional substance listed on a chemical safety report, known as a material safety data sheet, was 2-butoxyethanol.

“The products emitted more than 420 chemicals, collectively, but virtually none of them were disclosed to consumers, anywhere,” Steinemann said. Because product formulations are confidential, it was not possible to determine whether a chemical came from the product base, the fragrance added to the product, or both.

Tables included with the article list all chemicals emitted by each product and the associated concentrations, although do not disclose the products’ brand names. “We don’t want to give people the impression that if we reported on product ‘A’ and they buy product ‘B,’ that they’re safe,” Steinemann said. “We found potentially hazardous chemicals in all of the fragranced products we tested.”

The study establishes the presence of various chemicals but makes no claims about the possible health effects. Two national surveys published by Steinemann and a colleague in 2009 found that about 20 percent of the population reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and about 10 percent complained of adverse effects from laundry products vented to the outdoors. Among asthmatics, such complaints were roughly twice as common.

The Household Product Labeling Act, currently being reviewed by the U.S. Senate, would require manufacturers to list ingredients in air fresheners, soaps, laundry supplies and other consumer products. Steinemann says she is interested in fragrance mixtures, which are included in the proposed labeling act, because of the potential for unwanted exposure, or what she calls “secondhand scents.”

As for what consumers who want to avoid such chemicals should do in the meantime, Steinemann suggests using simpler options such as cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, opening windows for ventilation, and using products without any fragrance.

“In the past two years, I’ve received more than 1,000 e-mails, messages, and telephone calls from people saying: ‘Thank you for doing this research, these products are making me sick, and now I can start to understand why,’” Steinemann said.


Steinemann is currently a visiting professor in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Co-authors are Ian MacGregor and Sydney Gordon at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio; Lisa Gallagher, Amy Davis and Daniel Ribeiro at the UW; and Lance Wallace, retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The research was partially funded by Seattle Public Utilities.


University of Washington, Hannah Hickey, Release: Scented consumer products shown to emit many unlisted chemicals,Oct. 26, 2010

Related Articles:

The life of a young woman is threatened again by the spraying of toxic chemicals

Do you remember, around the middle of 2010 when the parents of a young Spanish woman, Elvira Roda, who suffers from severe chemical sensitivity (MCS), asked for help? Do you recall that Elvira was living in a specially prepared, very expensive, pollution-free house where the city applied pesticides?

EMM Blog: Cry for Help – Young Woman in Danger

This seriously ill woman collapsed from the nerve agents, which were sprayed and resulted in putting her into a critical condition. For days she was in the worst health state possible and had to sit in a lawn chair by the sea. The parents tried to stop the city leaders from this application of pesticides, neurotoxic organophos- phates, but it was in vain.

A petition for Elvira, was released worldwide on many MCS blogs and by organizations. People from different countries signed, asking the city officials to refrain from spraying pesticides outside the home of this young woman.

Elvira’s life is in danger again

A day ago the parents of Elvira again asked for help because the city of Alboraya has now begun to spray a herbicide.

Please read her parent’s letter below and support by signing the petition for Elvira.

For Elvira’s sake:

Thanks to everyone who supported Elvira Roda by signing the petition to the Alboraya City Council in Valencia , Spain and asking them not to use chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment, but instead requesting them to find healthier alternatives.

Our family has tried everything possible to prevent further spraying, but unfortunately today on October 5th, the Alboraya City Council will begin using new fumigation using Plus Roundup (glyphosate), and other environmentally harmful chemicals.

We have requested them to use environmentally friendly, natural alternatives, and asked the city council to inform the public prior to the spraying, but both requests were unsuccessful. We therefore believe it necessary for the health of all, to continue to collect signatures on the petition. We need you. With these efforts, we will certainly succeed.

Please help Elvira Roda! Tomorrow it could be one of you, who needs the help of us all.

For more information regarding Elvira’s situation, please see:

Support for Elvira Roda

To sign the petition, go to >>> Petition to Elvira Roda (sign at the bottom)

Thank you for your support!

Paradox – Danish MCS sufferers are denied help because of the lack of scientific documentation – which nobody wants to obtain!

Series:  “The Danish MCS Research Centre in the International Field of Vision

Part III:

Until 2008 it was a common practice in Denmark for local authorities to grant severe MCS sufferers free aid under the service law, section 122, by giving them half mask respirators with activated charcoal filters.

In 2008 a severe female MCS sufferer had her application rejected by the local authorities for this respirator. This case ended at the Danish appeals board, which upheld the rejection on the following grounds:

“…there is no medical documentation for the chronic manifestations of the disease (MCS), its causality, lack of diagnostic criteria and treatment, as well as there is no medical documentation that the mask can sufficiently remedy functionality in her daily life.”

After this incident, a number of MCS patients had their grants for the respirators with filters also suspended by their local authorities, referring to the above ruling.

At the same time, there is no hospital ward in Denmark at all that is committed to examine, diagnose, treat and/or guide this group of severe MCS suffers. All instances refer to the Research Center for Chemical Sensitivities in Copenhagen, which was established in 2006 with minimal grants, but which does not occupy itself with MCS patients, except for using them as test subjects in PhD studies or projects.

The Research Center denies research effects of mask respirators on the MCS population

After the ruling by the appeals board, a great number of MCS sufferers contacted the Research Center to make them document the effects of the respirators with filters for the MCS population, since these are for the time being, the only efficient treatment option for those with MCS, besides the so-called avoidance strategy which leads to social isolation and thus to the possible risk of a subsequent psychological impairment due to isolation from the outside world in the MCS patient’s life. However, this isolation can be reduced by wearing a mask respirator.

To the MCS sufferers’ great astonishment and despair, the Research Center, however, published on its homepage that they were not going to research the effects of half mask respirators with activated charcoal filters on the MCS population. Their arguments, were among others, was that an investigation into the effects of mask respirators on MCS sufferers would require a clinically controlled study, and such a study must be both placebo-controlled and double-blind in order for the results to become reliable and useful.

Thus, the Research Center does not prioritize spending research funds on a study of mask respirators, but focuses instead on researching possible disease mechanisms and other therapy strategies. (1)

In this way, Danish MCS sufferers can see no prospect of anyone obtaining the documentation required by the Danish social system. Thus there is no prospect of being granted mask respirators, the aid which is extremely vital for sufferers – a crazy paradox not worthy of a modern welfare society.

Instead, the Research Center regards electroconvulsive therapy of MCS sufferers as interesting

Simultaneously with the above, the Research Center was following a male MCS sufferer who accepted being subjected to electroconvulsive therapy over six months (at first eight electroshock treatments over three weeks, and after that every two weeks), and on the basis of this one MCS patient’s subjective evaluation of the effect of this electroconvulsive therapy – a ”study” that, of course, was neither placebo-controlled nor double-blind – the Research Center published a scientific article: ”Electro- convulsive Therapy Substantially Reduces Symptom Severity and Social Disability Associated With Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Case Report. “Elberling et al. (2) with this conclusion: “In this case, a substantial, positive effect on symptom severity and social disability related to MCS was obtained by an initial somatizing patients course and maintenance treatment. Electroconvulsive therapy should be considered an option in severe and socially disabling MCS, but more studies are needed to evaluate if ECT can be recommended as a treatment for MCS.”

The limited research funds are gladly spent on Mindfulness therapy

Also, the Research Center is planning to spend its very limited funds to research the effects of Mindfulness based cognitive therapy on MCS.

In 2008 the Research Center performed a pilot project study in cooperation with the Center of Psychiatry, The Copenhagen University Hospital, where the title of this pilot project on the homepage of the Copenhagen University Hospital was ”Mindfulness based cognitive therapy of somatizing patients, primarily MCS patients.”

However, this title was in haste changed to: “The Effects of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy with Persons with Hypersensitivity to Fragrances and Chemical Substances,” since MCS sufferers found out that the Research Center, in cooperation with the Center of Psychiatry, considered them mentally ill. Jesper Elberling, the then scientific leader of the Research Center, had meanwhile passed it all off as a “mistake.”

Right now, in continuation of this above-mentioned pilot project, a PhD study is being planned, to investigate the effect of Mindfulness on the MCS population. This is obviously one of those therapy strategies in which the Research Center gladly prioritizes its limited research funding, notwithstanding that Danish MCS sufferers again and again have told the Research Center that mask respirators are an efficient therapy strategy, whereas no one has ever heard or hears about MCS sufferers who have experienced any effects on their MCS from Mindfulness therapy.

Will the Research Center follow its own persistence and demand the placebo-controlled and double-blind studies in its coming research?

In the near future, the Research Center will start up its new study on the effects of Mindfulness therapy on MCS, and we shall then see if the Research Center will actually live up to its own demands and arguments that therapy effects require [DP1] a clinically controlled study, which is both placebo controlled and double-blind, in order for the results to become reliable and useful.

These demands apply hopefully not only for therapy forms, (the effects of which the Research Center does not want to document), such as half mask respirators with activated charcoal filters that are indeed vital to most severe MCS patients, and at the moment are the only treatment strategy that gives MCS sufferers the temporary possibility of being able to move about in the public domain, and which severe MCS sufferers experience as a highly efficient therapy strategy. However this highly efficient therapy strategy lacks – according to the Research Center – ”scientific documentation” which apparently nobody in Denmark wants to obtain.

Author: Bodil Nielsen, Denmark

Translation: Dorte Pugliese for CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network

Series:  “The Danish MCS Research Centre in the International Field of Vision

Part I: MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Report from Denmark

Part II:Changes of the international science of chemical sensitivity at the Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities?

Cry for help – Young Woman in Danger

A young chemically sensitive woman is in need of help due to pesticide spraying

Elvira Roda lives in the Spanish region of Valencia and is in great need. Her family and friends are asking for international help. The 35-year-old woman is suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, MCS. The humidity and heat where she lives means an increased number of bugs and mosquitoes. The officials from her area are using highly toxic organophosphate pesticide spraying in the trees and roadsides (see video). These neurotoxins are very harmful to humans and animals. Elvira’s family drew up a petition on July 1st, 2010 to ask for assistance.

Treatment success from the specialty clinic is now destroyed, instead she faces danger

Elvira was treated at one of the world’s best environmental clinics, the Environmental Health Center in Dallas. Her physical health was stabilized and hope returned to her family. Her case was in the media for some time.

This young woman who is disabled with severe reactions by small traces of perfume has already broken down several times due to highly toxic pesticides that are being applied by the officials outside of her home. These pesticides are particularly dangerous for her because they disable a specific detoxification enzyme and the body then poisons itself.

At the moment Elvira is brought to the sea every day. It is difficult for her because she has severe sensitivity to light among other things. She gets spasms, has immune damage, and suffers from fibromyalgia. She spends the whole day on the beach, not enjoying the sand and the water, but instead staying still in a “bed” due to her bad health. There is no other solution. It is the only way to protect her from being exposed to dangerous toxins. Unfortunately there are no emergency headquarters in Spain for the chemically sensitive or in any other countries for that matter.

Young women in danger

Eliva’s parents have designed her a safe “bubble” where her living space is free of harmful substances, so that this 35 year old woman can normally cope and get along well. She has a sauna there for detoxification so Eliva has a safe haven to live in. She had a safe oasis, but that was before. Now toxic pesticides are sprayed a few yards from the house and the trees are fogged from top to bottom.

The family has informed the authorities of the danger of this pesticide spraying for the young woman. They requested notification of this spraying beforehand. Many don’t understand that these sprays used can penetrate through sealed windows and doors of apartments. These types of pesticides remain active for a long time and they can release gases for several days or weeks.

Not only are those who are chemically sensitive are threatened by these pesticides, but everyone who lives in the environment, especially babies and children whose immune systems and detoxification systems are not fully developed. The main objective of this class of pesticide is to attack the nervous system, but they can also damage the immune system as in the case of chlorpyrifos, which is one type which is known to cause multiple chemical sensitivity.

Petition in support of Elvira Roda

In order to stop this spraying of pesticides, Elvira, and the family have written a petition to the City Council. Anyone can also sign this petition and make a comment. It is important that Elvira receives international assistance. Please post on Facebook, in newsgroups, and on Twitter to help the family spread the news.

Petition for Elvira Roda:

You can sign and comment here:

Give Elvira support, strength and hope

Details regarding Elvira’s situation are on the Website Elvira Roda There you can see what her family has built for her. It would be wonderful to write Elvira and her family to give them courage to move forward in any language. English and Spanish are preferred if possible, but your own language can be translated by computer. Anyone who suffers from MCS can relate to the incredible pain Elvira must be dealing with now.

Since Elvira also suffers from electrical sensitivity, she cannot answer herself, but gets all her letters read aloud. Elvira is trying to maintain contact through her website. She writes by hand on paper, and the family and friends help to refresh the page. It can sometimes take a while to get online information, because of the intensive care for the young woman.

All the best for Elvira!

We wish you much strength and hopefully Elvira will assist in the quick understanding on the part of the City Council to move on to non-toxic pest control methods that would benefit of all inhabitants of the Spanish city.

Author: Silvia K. Müller, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network, 11 July 2010

Translation: Christi Howarth for CSN

Please feel free to add this article to your website or blog. Thank you!


More articles about Chemical Sensitivity:

Odor identification ability and self-reported upper respiratory symptoms in workers at the post-9/11 World Trade Center site

Following the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse on September 11, 2001, more than 40,000 people were exposed to a complex mixture of inhalable nanoparticles and toxic chemicals. While many developed chronic respiratory symptoms, to what degree olfaction was compromised is unclear. A previous WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program study found that olfactory and nasal trigeminal thresholds were altered by the toxic exposure, but not scores on a 20-odor smell identification test.

To employ a well-validated 40-item smell identification test to definitively establish whether the ability to identify odors is compromised in a cohort of WTC-exposed individuals and, if so, whether the degree of compromise is associated with self-reported severity of rhinitic symptoms.

The University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) was administered to 99 WTC-exposed persons and 99 matched normal controls. The Sino-Nasal Outcomes Test (SNOT-20) was administered to the 99 WTC-exposed persons and compared to the UPSIT scores.

The mean (SD) UPSIT scores were lower in the WTC-exposed group than in age-, sex-, and smoking history-matched controls [respective scores: 30.05 (5.08) vs 35.94 (3.76); p = 0.003], an effect present in a subgroup of 19 subjects additionally matched on occupation (p < 0.001). Fifteen percent of the exposed subjects had severe microsmia, but only 3% anosmia. SNOT-20 scores were unrelated to UPSIT scores (r = 0.20; p = 0.11).

Exposure to WTC air pollution was associated with a decrement in the ability to identify odors, implying that such exposure had a greater influence on smell function than previously realized.


Altman KW, Desai SC, Moline J, de la Hoz RE, Herbert R, Gannon PJ, Doty RL.,Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Odor identification ability and self-reported upper respiratory symptoms in workers at the post-9/11 World Trade Center site, Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2010 Jun 30.