Health Effects:



There is very little medical literature on the effects of perfumes and fragrances on the respiratory system. In general fragranced products are recognized as respiratory irritants. They are known to contribute to indoor air pollution and irritate airway passages. In recent years there has been increasing complaints of fragrances being triggers for upper airway problems and for asthma. Several studies have been conducted in this area.

Placebo-controlled challenges with perfume in patients with asthma-like symptoms
Millqvist E, Lowhagen O

This study was done with patients that complained of asthma like symptoms from exposures to perfumes. It was found that even though the odor could not be detected asthma symptoms were triggered. It was also found that carbon filters, though effective in filtering odor did not have a protective effect.

 Inhalation challenge effects of perfume scent strips in patients with asthma.
Kumar P, Caradonna-Graham VM, Gupta S, Cai X, Rao PN, Thompson J

Perfume strips are common in magazines. It was found these strips triggered asthma attacks in asthmatics. Almost 21% of the asthmatic tested had attacks triggered by these strips. Severe and atopic asthmatics were at increased risk of having adverse reactions.

Airway response to hair spray in normal subjects and subjects with hyperreactive airways.
Schlueter DP, Soto RJ, Baretta ED, Herrmann AA, Ostrander LE, Stewart RD

Decreased expiratory rates were observed in those with hyperactive airways after exposure to hairspray. Normal subjects were unaffected. It was thought the fragrances in the hairspray were responsible for triggering the response.

 Several studies have linked perfumes with higher incidence of asthma

Genetic and environmental factors associated with asthma.
Bener A, Abdulrazzaq YM, Al-Mutawwa J, Debuse P

Air pollution and the prevalence of bronchial asthma among the pediatric population of Moscow
Revich BA

Fragrances have been linked to occupational asthma

Clinical forms of skin manifestations in allergy to perfume
Meynadier JM, Meynadier J, Peyron JL, Peyron L

Occupational asthma caused by scented gravel in cat litter boxes
Jensen OC, Petersen I

 In existing studies fragrances have been established as a trigger for asthma. Very little work has been done to determine whether specific chemicals are responsible. Fragrance formulas are trade secrets so the ingredients contained in them are usually not known by the patient or the doctor. This makes it difficult to pinpoint specific chemicals that may the culprits.

Fragrance chemicals are frequently skin sensitizers. This is well documented in medical literature. However, there is little known about their effects on the respiratory system. Testing is done by the fragrance industry on the effects of fragrance chemicals on the skin. Despite the fact that fragrances are designed to be inhaled, very little information is available on their effects on the respiratory system. This type of testing has not been routinely done by the fragrance industry.

Virtually all fragrance chemicals are volatile. By this fact, there is respiratory exposure. The sheer numbers of fragranced products used makes the exposure significant.



Information compiled by Betty Bridges, RN

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Changes last made on: Fri Jan 2, 00:50:00 1998


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