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University of Melbourne Researcher Finds Fragrance Products Cause Serious Health Problems

Published on 2017-03-08. Author : SpecialChem

University of Melbourne researcher has found that one-third of Australians report health problems — ranging from migraine headaches to asthma attacks — when exposed to common fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products.

University of Melbourne Researcher Finds Fragrance Products Cause Serious Health Problems
University of Melbourne Researcher Finds Fragrance
Products Cause Serious Health Problems

Health Issues - Fragranced Products


The research was conducted by Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil Engineering and Chair of Sustainable Cities, from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering and published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports.

When exposed to fragranced products, 33 per cent of Australians suffer adverse health effects, such as breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, rashes, congestion, seizures, nausea, and a range of other physical problems.

Subtle Effects


The results mirrored those from similar research Professor Steinemann conducted in the United States, which found 34.7 per cent of people experienced health problems when exposed to fragranced products.

Professor Steinemann said:

“This is an epidemic, Fragranced products are creating health problems across Australia. The effects can be immediate, severe and potentially disabling. But they can also be subtle, and people may not realize they're being affected.”

Survey in Australia


Professor Steinemann conducted a nationally representative population survey in Australia, using a random sample of 1098 people from a large, web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

The research found 7.7 per cent of Australians have lost workdays or a job in the past year due to illness from fragranced product exposure in the workplace, and 16.7 per cent want to leave a shop or business as quickly as possible if they smell air fresheners or other fragranced products.

Professor Steinemann said:

"These findings have serious implications for businesses, workplaces, care facilities, schools, homes and other places – for anywhere or anyone that uses fragranced products.”

Chemical Emission


Professor Steinemann's previous research showed fragranced products emit a range of chemicals, including hazardous air pollutants, but ingredients do not need to be fully disclosed on the product label or safety data sheet.

She said:

“All types of fragranced products tested—even those with claims of ‘green,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘all-natural’—emitted hazardous air pollutants. As my study found, about twice as many Australians would prefer that workplaces, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, and aeroplanes were fragrance-free rather than fragranced.”

Her research continues to investigate why fragrance chemicals are causing health problems, and the implications for indoor environments.

About University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne enjoys an outstanding reputation with world rankings consistently placing us as Australia’s leading comprehensive research-intensive university, and one of the world’s top 50. Melbourne attracts the best and brightest students and researchers and, with a history of over 160 years, we occupy a special place at the heart of our city’s cultural scene.

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Source: University of Melbourne
2 Comments on "University of Melbourne Researcher Finds Fragrance Products Cause Serious Health Problems"
Ric W Mar 15, 2017
I agree with Barrie D as I find such a claim as "fragranced products cause serious health problems" to be inflammatory, blatant sensationalism and shows no real understanding of the effort and testing that goes into the development of cosmetic and household products. Not only are fragrances (and fragrance materials) approved by worldwide technical bodies such as IFRA and (its technical arm (RIFM)) but ethical manufacturers of cosmetics and household products go to extreme lengths to ensure that formulations are applicable to the vast majority of users and safe for the intended use. Yes, there are some consumers that may react to some components but these are a minority, certainly not 33%. If it were anything like that then the ACCC would have swung into action and forced recalls, due to their purpose to protect the public from the marketing of "unsafe" products. This has not happened, to my knowledge, regarding the claims made by Prof. Anne Steinemann. My suggestion is that Prof. Anne Steinemann conduct proper medical trials and publish her findings in peer reviewed publications before making such claims. In the meantime Prof. Anne Steinemann should provide a retraction of the initial article until such times as proper medical trials and published findings appear. This may assist in alleviating any fears the general public may have from reading the article in question and save some companies that would, ordinarily, not be able to overcome such adverse publicity.
Barrie D Mar 14, 2017
Having been involved in the Flavour & Fragrance industry for over 40 years I strongly feel I must at least respond to the study by Prof. Anne Steinemann, "fragrance products cause serious health problems" As a trained technical person I find it quite annoying that a study based on an on-line survey can be portrayed as having some sort of medical substantiation. Comments like "thought to be caused by fragranced products" or "possibly due to fragranced products" do not show a very controlled study. It is important that substances that are either dangerous or hazardous are fully tested before use in any product, not just fragrances. Ethical Fragrance & Flavour manufacturers have a rigorous program of testing and substantiation for all products used. If any product is considered to be under question it is removed from formulae until testing is concluded. There are many common "products" that are encountered in everyday use that are considered as Hazardous or Dangerous, for example lemon oil. The general public would not consider this to be a problem. By including many generally accepted "safe" products in a blanket statement does not serve the argument very well. Having said this I fully accept that there are some people that may be sensitive to some odours or combinations of odours. However, this does not mean that the rest of the population should not have access to what most consider to be pleasant.

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