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September 26, 2007

The Air Freshener Wars

The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) has published the results of a study that suggests that common air fresheners contain hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates. 12 of the 14 fresheners that they investigated contained the phthalates, which are used in many consumer products, including  as solvents in perfumes and fragrances, but are considered by many (including the State of California) to be harmful  and are "known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm." The NRDC article called for further research on air fresheners, and the study led to at least one large retailer taking the offending fresheners off the shelves.

Not surprisingly, the American Chemistry Council put out a press release yesterday responding to the study and charging that "these claims about air fresheners and phthalates are baseless and irresponsible." They maintain that the chemicals are perfectly safe and anyway are found in such small concentrations that they couldn't possibly be dangerous.

I spent a lot of time reading about phthalates during the controversy over lavender and tea tree last February, and my conclusion at the time was that the best you could say about them is that they are "controversial." The ACC press release threw out several diversions to "prove" its point,  including referring to research finding on their safety in cosmetics (not exactly the use here) and minimizing the levels found.

An earlier NRDC press release points out that air fresheners are now a $1.72 billion industry in the US, with an estimated 75% of households using them. NRDC scientists are suggesting that the best alternative to avoiding potential problems is to open a window.

What ever happened to good old fashioned aromatherapy?

Posted by Rob on September 26, 2007 in Aromatherapy, Regulatory Issues | Permalink


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