Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns


  • Betty Bridges

    Corresponding author
    1. Fragranced Products Information Network, 12602 Reed Rock Road, Amelia, VA 23002, USA
    • Fragranced Products Information Network, 12602 Reed Rock Road, Amelia, VA 23002, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author


Products containing scent are a part of daily life. The majority of cosmetics, toiletries, household and laundry products contain fragrance. In addition, there is exposure to fragrance from products that are used to scent the air, such as air fresheners and fragranced candles. In spite of this widespread use and exposure, there is little information available on the materials used in fragrance. Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets and components that make up the fragrance portion of the product are not revealed on labels. Fragrance is increasingly cited as a trigger in health conditions such as asthma, allergies and migraine headaches. In addition, some fragrance materials have been found to accumulate in adipose tissue and are present in breast milk. Other materials are suspected of being hormone disruptors. The implications are not fully known, as there has been little evaluation of systemic effects. There are environmental concerns as well, as fragrances are volatile compounds, which add to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Synthetic musk compounds are persistent in the environment and contaminate waterways and aquatic wildlife. At present there is little governmental regulation of fragrance. The fragrance industry has in place a system of self-regulation. However, the present system has failed to address many of the emerging concerns. Industry needs to responsibly address concerns and ensure that scented products are safe for users, those inadvertently exposed and the environment. It is essential that an industry that is, and wishes to continue to be, self-regulated should identify and address concerns in a forthright and responsible manner. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.