Scented Products Contain Toxic Chemicals, Carcinogens

| 10/28/2010 2:08:35 PM

If scented laundry soap or your co-worker’s perfume puts you over the edge, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon to have an aversion to fragrance, and for good reason, too—a new study from researchers at the University of Washington found that some scented products can release an average of 17 toxic chemicals each, leading to health problems as minor as headaches and respiratory irritation to more serious problems such as reproductive damage and cancer.

For the study, researchers tested 25 different scented products, from shampoos and deodorants to dish soap and laundry detergent. The researchers detected 133 different chemicals in the products, almost 25 percent of which are classified as toxic or hazardous. They also found that a third of the products included substances classified as carcinogens by the EPA.

lemon soap 
Dish soaps, laundry detergents and other household products that bear a scent may contain toxic chemicals. Photo By Bill Selak/Courtesy Flickr.

What’s even scarier? Only one of the 133 chemicals (ethanol) was labeled on the products’ packaging, half of which carry claims such as “green,” “organic” and “natural.”  Under current federal law, manufacturers are not required to disclose that their products carry these ingredients. This lack of full disclosure, along with a rise in greenwashing, makes it important for us to scrutinize the products we buy.

If you can’t trust the ingredients list, look for certification systems that you trust, such as USDA organic certification. Another alternative is to forgo store-bought products and make your own.

• Instead of scented laundry soap, make your own homemade laundry detergent.

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