Scented Products Under
WHEN IT COMES TO household care categories, scent and experience are intertwined. But twice in 2011,
the safety of scented household products came
into the public arena with attention-grabbing
headlines and media reports. First, in August, a
study was released questioning the safety of air fresheners, and in November, a similar issue arose surrounding allergies and air fresheners.
In the first case, the safety of scented laundry products was
questioned by University of Washington professor Anne
Steinemann in a paper that made claims about emissions from
dryer vents after using certain laundry products. According to
the paper, which was published online in Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, air vented from machines using the topselling scented liquid laundry detergent and scented dryer
sheet contains hazardous chemicals, including two that are
classified as carcinogens.
In the second situation, Dr. Stanley Fineman, the recently appointed president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma
and Immunology, reported that the chemicals contained in many
scented products lead to runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. He said that those with asthma are especially sensitive,
and that study data indicates a change in their lung functioning
when exposed to certain chemical fragrances.
Product and fragrance manufacturers and industry groups,
including the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, Inc.
(RIFM), were quick to rebut the allegations and reiterate their
position on the long-term safety of the products. Happi checked
in with Dr. Ladd Smith, current RIFM president, about this situation, and other ongoing projects at the nonprofit corporation.
SMITH: The same researcher published another paper on dryer emissions implicating
fragrance ingredients among others. The
second study employed similar ill-designed
protocols and implied health risks without
solid scientific evidence. Many issues currently in the press are derived from these two
papers based on weak science.
There is, however, proposed legislation coming out of California that may have greater impact on
the industry. The proposed Safe Chemicals Act aimed at
updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the newly
proposed Safer Consumer Products Regulations. Each has the
ability to change the way the industry does business in the US.
DR. LADD SMITH
HAPPI: Last summer, fragrance in laundry products came under
attack after a study was released by a University of Washington
researcher. RIFM and associations in the industry together issued
a statement about the products safety—can you provide us with
an update on that situation?
SMITH: The industry has received no formal response from our
issued“counterpoint” statements. RIFM also had a letter to the
editor published in Environmental Health Perspectives rebutting
an article about this study, Singal, M., Vitale, D., Smith, L. W.“Fra-granced Products and VOCs.”Letter to the Editor, Environmental Health Perspectives, 119 ( 5): A200 (2011).
Separately, RIFM has tried to contact some of the more public proponents of this research, Dr. Oz and Dr. Fineman of the
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
to start a dialogue about the accuracy of the science. We look forward to a reasoned scientific discussion on the topic but have not
heard back from this quarter either.
HAPPI: Can you provide us an update on RIFM’s latest stud-ies/involvement in fragrances?
SMITH: RIFM continues to conduct robust safety evaluations
on materials used as fragrance ingredients, through programs in
human health, the environment, respiratory and the RIFM Database. RIFM is also deeply involved in research and method development to examine non-animal alternatives such as protein
binding, cytokine profiling and in silico predictive modeling.
The RIFM Environmental Science Program’s ongoing research supports the development of new IFRA (International
Fragrance Association) Environmental Standards. The RIFM Respiratory Science Program developed and recently debuted in silico models that predict the behavior of materials released from
different air care/household spray products and evaluates the exposure risk. The RIFM Human Health Science Program continues to review and publish on the safety of fragrance raw
materials. In 2011, six groups (about 120 materials) were published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The Human
Health Science Program also has a state of the science, global
epidemiology study that intends to accurately assess the true
prevalence of fragrance allergy in the general population. The European phase is just coming to completion.
RIFM’s research results in the form of publications, research
papers and posters are available from the Science pages of the
RIFM website at www.rifm.org.
HAPPI: Have there been any other similar situations in which fragrances in household care products have come under fire in 2011?
HAPPI: What other issues are on RIFM’s radar screen now that
might come into play in 2012?
SMITH: REACH in Europe still plays a big role and new efforts out of California regarding Green Chemistry and Alternatives Assessment are being met. RIFM is tracking indoor air
quality issues, from a study perspective, through the work that
EPHECT (Emissions, Exposure Patterns and Health Effects of
Consumer Products) is doing in Europe and the issues being
raised in California.
RIFM also continues to perform the routine testing and research methodology development that assists the industry as it
moves toward greater transparency and making the public more
aware of the work being done to assure safe fragrance use. And
ingredient disclosure initiatives, whether federal or state based,
have a direct impact on the use of safety information.•