Below is a PDF list of 3090 materials that were reported to be used in fragrance compounds by IFRA members in a 2008 voluntary survey. IFRA members are responsible for possibly 90% of the world’s fragrance production. The list was updated in 2011 and they say they will occasionally update it again with info from future surveys.
There could be ingredients used in fragrance manufacture that are not on this list.
Many of the fragrance ingredients are made from petrochemicals. Yes, from petroleum. Great stuff to breathe in (especially for children and pets) and absorb through our skin.
I hope to be able to get a list of the 4000 – 7000 chemicals that (according to the CDC) are in cigarette smoke, and then find a way to compare the two.
Just for fun.
Note that health effects are not known for a significant portion of the chemicals in production and use today. Testing has simply not been done. When substances do show health harm, it is extremely difficult to get them off the market.
That said, there are more than a few substances listed below that are known to cause serious health harm.
2008 IFRA Ingredient Transparency List 2011 PDF (copy pasted from their website)
2016 IFRA Transparency list 3999 substances (PDF as downloaded from their website)
2020 IFRA Transparency List (copy pasted from their website)
Toxic Chemicals Found in Fragrance
When visiting the doctor, go fragrance free
Many of us routinely use a variety of scented personal care products, from lotion to perfume. But did you know that those scents may cause problems for other people?
“Many people in our community, especially those with chronic health conditions, are chemically sensitive,” says Kaiser Permanente workplace safety consultant Drew Tomita.
“They can become ill when exposed to things like cologne and perfume, scented body washes and soaps, and essential oils.”
“We’re committed to making sure all our facilities are accessible for everyone,” says Tomita.
“We appreciate everyone’s help in making this possible.”
The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s
“Environmental sensitivity and scent-free policies”
“A scent-free policy is similar to other workplace policies such as
People who have allergies or sensitivity to certain products may have a bad reaction to a much lower level of chemicals, perfumes or environmental triggers than the average person.
Their reaction is a medical condition. It is a recognized disability. People with allergies or environmental sensitivity are entitled to protection from its cause.
The Canadian Human Right Act protects people with allergies or environmental sensitivities, like any other disability.
Employers and service providers must ensure that their facilities are accessible and safe. In the case of environmental sensitivities, this means:
– reducing the use of chemicals;
– having a scent-free policy;
From ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), September 2019
1. Accepting the leadership offered by the Task Force on Environmental Health to address the health care system, proactive change can begin immediately at all levels of society including federal, provincial, and municipal governments and public departments and agencies.
These would include, but are not limited to, public transportation providers, school boards, and the private sector.
a. All provincial ministries should consult on and revise their Statements of Environmental Values (as required under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights) to achieve procurement policies, workplace scent-free policies, and other means to reduce environmental triggers in their workplaces, with particular focus on addressing front-line/public-facing departments and services.
b. Likewise, all municipal governments should consult on and finalize comparable policies to address procurement, workplace scent-free policies, and other means to reduce environmental triggers in municipal workplaces, and particularly in front-line/public-facing services and departments.
c. Similarly, both public and private transit and transportation services (buses, trains, taxis, etc.) should also develop scent or fragrance free policies.
2. A corporate challenge is needed to address environmental triggers in the private sector in three major respects: workplaces, consumer product pricing and housing:
“We must find creative ways of ensuring public understanding, respect and adherence to providing the least toxic environment for all Ontarians. It may be trite to say everyone will benefit from living in the least toxic environment, but that is the task going forward.”
Canadian Lawyer Magazine:
Human rights and housing resources for environmental sensitivities released
…“Common triggers of environmental sensitivities in apartments are perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, paint, fumes, and laundry detergent, the new toolkit said.
This resource is especially unique because it brings the community, the law and the medical profession together to address the housing, legal and health needs of renters living with an environmental sensitivity disability,” the foundation said in its statement.”
Among individuals with autism/ASDs, 83.7% report health problems when exposed to fragranced consumer products…
“What’s more, airborne chemicals that originate inside a house don’t stay there:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from products such as shampoo, perfume and cleaning solutions eventually escape outside and contribute to ozone and fine particle formation, making up an even greater source of global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks do.”
“Our study provided a strong evidence to suggest that high levels of fine particle and formaldehyde might be produced when coexisting with emission of essential oils emissions and low concentration oxidants in the air, and consequently result in
adverse health concerns for those using essential oils in general indoor environments.”
~ Primary Products Emitted From Evaporating Essential Oils and
Potential Secondary Pollutants From Their Reactions With Oxidants
Some air pollutants seep through skin
For some chemicals, uptake through skin can at least match entry via the lungs
…One chemical was diethyl (Di-ETH-ul) phthalate or DEP. It is a common ingredient of cosmetics, perfumes and personal-care products such as shampoos. DEP has been linked to a slight feminization and other changes in the genitals of newborn boys. The second compound was di-n-butyl (BEU-tul) phthalate, or DnBP. It also occurs in many cosmetics. And it is used as an industrial solvent and an ingredient in adhesives, antifoaming agents, plastics and lubricants. It has been linked to low birthweight babies.
…For DEP, inhaling and skin passage delivered roughly equal amounts of the pollutant into the blood and urine. For DnBP, skin exposures were about 80 percent as big as breathing’s, he says. The researchers shared their findings in the October Environmental Health Perspectives.
But the six-hour tests did not max out their possible exposures. It was too short to allow the phthalates to completely fill the men’s skin. The inner skin tissue could not totally soak up the chemicals. Until that happens, only some of the airborne phthalates — not the max — could make it into the blood. The researchers calculated that if the men had been exposed for another 30 to 40 hours, the findings would have been very different.
“Then [skin] absorption could be five to six times higher than inhalation,” Weschler told Science News for Students.
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners:
“We found fragrance chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, endocrine disruption and other serious health conditions in everything from children’s shampoo to body lotion to perfumes,”
Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents
(and off the people wearing clothes that were washed with them)
Personal care products contribute to a pollution ‘rush hour’
Emissions from products such as shampoo and perfume are comparable to the emissions from auto exhaust
“When people are out and about, they leave plumes of chemicals behind them — from both car tailpipes and the products they put on their skin and hair. In fact, emissions of siloxane, a common ingredient in shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, are comparable in magnitude to the emissions of major components of vehicle exhaust, such as benzene, from rush-hour traffic.”
International prevalence of fragrance sensitivity
“For 9.5% of the population, the severity of health effects can be
“Prevalence of diagnosed MCS has increased over 300%, and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200%, in the past decade. Reducing exposure to fragranced products could help reduce adverse health and societal effects.”
Among Americans with asthma/asthma-like conditions, 64.3% report health problems, such as breathing difficulties, when exposed to fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners.
Canadian Medical Association Journal:
“Removal of scented products from the homes of families of children at risk of asthma, or with current asthma symptoms, is likely wise.”
New commentary unpacks growing concern about the role of cleaning products in irritating the airways of young children:
Emissions from fragranced baby products (both regular and organic).
All baby products tested emitted chemicals classified as hazardous, with no significant difference between the regular and “organic” fragranced baby products.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) no longer considers products that contain fragrance or perfume for inclusion in the Seal of Acceptance program.
Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions.
Fragranced consumer products, such as cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and personal care products, are a primary source of indoor air pollutants and personal exposure.
Overall, 34.7 % of the population reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products.
18.6 % respiratory problems;
16.2 % mucosal symptoms;
15.7 % migraine headaches;
10.6 % skin problems;
8.0 % asthma attacks;
7.2 % neurological problems;
5.8 % cognitive problems;
5.5 % gastrointestinal problems;
4.4 % cardiovascular problems;
4.0 % immune system problems;
3.8 % musculoskeletal problems; and
1.7 % other.”
72.6 % were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products typically emit hazardous air pollutants.
Further, 15.1 % have lost workdays or a job due to fragranced product exposure in the workplace.
Also, 20.2 % would enter a business but then leave as quickly as possible if they smell air fresheners or some fragranced product.
Over 50 % of the population would prefer that workplaces, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, and airplanes were fragrance-free.
While prior research found that common fragranced products, even those called green and organic, emitted hazardous air pollutants, more than two thirds of the population were not aware of this, and over 60 % would not continue to use a fragranced product if they knew it emitted such pollutants.
Results from this study provide strong evidence that fragranced products can trigger adverse health effects in the general population.
The study also indicates that reducing exposure to fragranced products, such as through fragrance-free policies, can provide cost-effective and relatively simple ways to reduce risks and improve air quality and health.
“Essential oils, widely used in society, emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these VOCs are considered as potentially hazardous under federal regulations. However, essential oils are exempt from disclosure of their ingredients on their label. Thus, the public may lack information on emissions and potential hazards from essential oils.
This study examined VOCs emitted from a range of commercial essential oils, including tea tree oils, lavender oils, eucalyptus oils, and other individual oils and mixtures of oils. Using headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), the study analyzed 24 commercial essential oils, including 12 with claims of being “natural” or related terms, such as organic, 100% pure, or plant-based.
Results identified 595 VOCs emitted from the 24 essential oils, representing 188 different VOCs. The most common VOCs emitted were alpha-pinene, limonene, acetone, linalool, alpha-phellandrene, beta-myrcene, and camphene.
Among the 589 VOCs identified, 124 VOCs, representing 33 different VOCs, are classified as potentially hazardous. All natural and regular essential oils emitted one or more potentially hazardous VOCs, such as acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethanol. Toluene was also found in 50% of essential oils.
Moreover, for the prevalent VOCs classified as potentially hazardous, no significant difference was found between regular and natural essential oils. This study provides insights and information about emissions of commercial essential oils that can be useful for public awareness and risk reduction.”
“Beyond their immediate effects, VOCs react with other molecules in the air, such as oxygen and nitrogen oxides, to generate ozone as well as fine particulate matter. (Those nitrogen oxides come, in large part, from vehicle exhaust.) High levels of fine particulate matter make it hard to breathe and contribute to chronic lung problems (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18). And while ozone high in the atmosphere helps shield Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, at ground level, it mixes with fine particulates to form breath-choking smog.”
~ Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution
Chemicals in lavender and tea tree oil appear to be hormone disruptors
“From the hundreds of chemicals that comprise lavender and tea tree oil, they selected for analysis eight components that are common and mandated for inclusion in the oils. Four of the tested chemicals appear in both oils: eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, dipentene/limonene and alpha-terpineol. The others were in either oil: linalyl acetate, linalool, alpha-terpinene and gamma-terpinene. Using in vitro, or test tube, experiments, the researchers applied these chemicals to human cancer cells to measure changes of estrogen receptor- and androgen receptor-target genes and transcriptional activity.
All eight chemicals demonstrated varying estrogenic and/or anti-androgenic properties, with some showing high or little to no activity, the investigators reported. Ramsey said these changes were consistent with endogenous, or bodily, hormonal conditions that stimulate gynecomastia in prepubescent boys.
“Lavender oil and tea tree oil pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further,” he said.
Of further concern, according to Ramsey, is that many of the chemicals they tested appear in at least 65 other essential oils. Essential oils are available without a prescription and are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thus, the public should be aware of these findings and consider all evidence before deciding to use essential oils. The NIEHS Division of Intramural Research funded this study through its support of Korach.”
…Chamomile can soothe, but for those with an allergy to this family of plants, which also includes daises and ragweed (responsible for common springtime allergies), the potential for hives and swelling hinders relaxation.
Lavender induces tranquility too, but it can also cause enough skin irritation that in May 2014 the Swedish Chemicals Agency (SCA) proposed a health warning on lavender products.
The European Union is now considering labeling lavender, “May Be Harmful if Inhaled.”
More specifically, a lavender allergy is caused by a compound within lavender extract called linalool.
Linalool produces lavender’s fragrance and reacts with air to form the skin irritant. The natural extract of a lavender plant contains 20 to 40 percent linalool, depending on the plant variety, and chemists can synthesize linalool at a purity of 97 percent.
The more people use natural products, the more likely they are to develop an allergy to them, since reactions often occur with regular contact. These types of allergens are called sensitizers.
“People often think that when they become allergic to some thing it has to be something new,” says Dr. Michael Stierstoffer, a dermatologist practicing in the Philadelphia area. “But often it’s something that they have been repetitively exposed to and then at some point in time the immune system just decides to become allergic to it.”
Some types of allergies induce hay fever and asthma as the immune system dumps histamine and other inflammatory response chemicals into the blood stream in response to the allergen. A Type 1 allergy, as it is known, can be fatal if the inflammation is so severe that the airway swells to the point of closing (called anaphylaxis).
A less extreme allergy (Type 4) occurs when lymph nodes absorb an allergen and tag it as suspicious. Continued exposure assures the immune system of the allergen’s ill will and, eventually, contact with the allergen results in a scaly rash. Both types of allergies can exhibit this sensitization lag time, though it’s more common with Type 4.
“Our study provided a strong evidence to suggest that high levels of fine particle and formaldehyde might be produced when coexisting with emission of essential oils emissions and low concentration oxidants in the air, and consequently result in adverse health concerns for those using essential oils in general indoor environments.”
TVOC and terpenes increase significantly during aromatherapy using essential oils.
Formaldehyde is found co-generated during ozone-initiated reactions with terpenes.
Essential Oil Poisoning Is on The Rise.
“As is often the case with natural remedies, it can be easy to oversell the benefits while downplaying the risks. Around the world, medicine regarded as alternative sits at a “crossroad” of regulation, seeking the benefit of science’s stamp of approval without the sense of control and authority.
Knowing just how to categorise and regulate the use of essential oils as a medical treatment is therefore easier said than done.
The researchers have some places we could start.
On an individual level, we can all start by simply seeing essential oils as potentially dangerous substances.
Personal care products contribute to a pollution ‘rush hour’
Emissions from products such as shampoo and perfume are comparable to the emissions from auto exhaust
When people are out and about, they leave plumes of chemicals behind them — from both car tailpipes and the products they put on their skin and hair. In fact, emissions of siloxane, a common ingredient in shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, are comparable in magnitude to the emissions of major components of vehicle exhaust, such as benzene, from rush-hour traffic.
Ten questions concerning air fresheners and indoor built environments
Air fresheners and indoor built environments: why air fresheners impair rather than improve indoor air quality, and pose health risks
Palau is first country to ban ‘reef toxic’ sun cream (but 2 of the chemicals of concern, oxybenzone and octinoxate are found in many fragranced products, not just sun screens)
see Reported Product Categories …
Fragrance Preparations, perfumes, Aftershave Lotions, Colognes and Toilet Waters, Deodorants, Hair products, lotions and potions…
Octinoxate is a fat-soluble chemical, which means that some of it that absorbed by the body will be metabolized and excreted in urine, but much of it will be stored either in fat tissue or lipid-rich tissue such as the placenta (26, 27).
Octinoxate can be found in both municipal treated and desalinated drinking water (11-13, 24). Sewage sludge can be heavily contaminated by Octinoxate and other Personal Care Product Chemical, further expanding the types of sources contaminating the environment (e.g., biosolids)(14)
Once in the body, Octinoxate can cause toxicity to a number of different organ systems.
Octinoxate is a genotoxin – meaning it damages DNA and the genetic material
Oxybenzone, or benzonephenone-3, sunscreens
Oxybenzone is also used in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and cosmetics as a photostabilizer.
lots of info here:
More info on the ingredients here:
Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
These chemicals are known environmental pollutants; most of them are endocrine disruptors or are incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals, fish, macroalgae and even people.
Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, and 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor are all Sun Protection Factor (SPF) chemicals used in sunscreen lotions or fragrances that absorb ultraviolet light from the sun.
The four parabens, triclosan, and phenoxyethanol are antimicrobial preservatives used in sunscreens, shampoos, moisturizers, liquid soaps, and hair conditioners.
Study verifies a missing piece to urban air quality puzzle
College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
In 2018, researchers from NOAA made a splash in the journal Science when they detailed how non-traditional VOCs represent half of all VOCs in the urban atmosphere in U.S. cities. Non-traditional VOCs originate from a slew of different chemicals, industries, and household products, including pesticides, coatings and paints, cleaning agents, and even personal care products like deodorants. Such products typically contain organic solvents whose evaporation leads to substantial atmospheric emissions of VOCs.
“It’s a lot of everyday stuff that we use,” said Presto. “Anything you use that is scented contains organic molecules, which can get out into the atmosphere and react” where it can form SOA.
Presto estimates that these non-traditional emissions have roughly the same contribution as transportation and biosphere emissions combined, in line with the hypothesis put forward by NOAA.
“Traditionally, we’ve focused a lot on power plants and vehicles for air quality, which have gotten way cleaner in the U.S..” said Presto. “What that means is that now, a substantial amount of the SOA is coming from this other ‘everyday, everywhere’ category that hasn’t really been considered until recently.”
Help for How to Be Fragrance-Free
The Fragrance-free Checklist
So You Think We’re Being Difficult When We ask You to Change Products?
Attitudinal barriers, fragranced products, and invisible disabilities
“inconvenience, morale, and preferences are not valid considerations in
assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship”
~OHRC Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability