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Twenty Most Common Chemicals
Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products

Identification of Polar Volatile Organic Compounds in Consumer Products and
Common Microenvironments

Study by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1991*
Reference: Lance Wallace, EPA; Phone 703.648.4287

Symptoms of exposure are taken from industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
Compiled by Julia Kendall (1935 - 1997);
Distributed by EHN, 1-(415)-541-5075

CNS = Central Nervous System -- YOUR brain and spine. CNS disorders include: Alzheimer's disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dementia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

CNS exposure symptoms include -- aphasia, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness, headaches, hunger, memory loss, numbness in face, pain in neck and spine.

(Links from chemicals to Aldrich so you can retrieve info from MSDS, once you sign up.)

The Principal Chemicals Found
in Scented Products Are:

(cologne, dishwashing liquid and detergent, nail enamel remover) --

On EPA, RCRA, CERCLA Hazardous Waste lists.

"Inhalation can cause dryness of the mouth and throat;

dizziness, nausea, incoordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, and, in severe exposures, coma."

"Acts primarily as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant."

[ACETONE (Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentrations (IDLHs)]
(perfume, cologne, hairspray, laundry bleach, deodorants, detergent, vaseline lotion, shaving cream, shampoo, bar soap, dishwasher detergent) --



"Local anesthetic, CNS depressant"

"irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs, and GI tract causing nausea and abdominal pain."

"May cause kidney damage."

"Do not use with contact lenses."
(perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, dishwashing liquid and detergent, soap, hairspray, bleach, after shave, deodorants) --

Carcinogenic (linked to pancreatic cancer);

"From vapors: irritating to eyes and respiratory passages, exciting cough."

"In mice: hyperaemia of the lungs."

"Can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects."

"Do not flush to sewer."
(perfume, cologne, soap, shampoo, nail enamel remover, air freshener, laundry bleach and detergent, vaseline lotion, deodorants, fabric softener) --

"irritating to the upper respiratory tract"

"headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, CNS depression, and death in severe cases due to respiratory failure."

(perfume, shaving cream, nail enamel, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, nail color, stickup air freshener) --

"local irritant and CNS stimulant"

"readily absorbed through body tissues"

"irritation of eyes, nose and throat"

"dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions"

"Avoid inhalation of vapors."

(perfume, hairspray, shampoo, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid and detergent, laundry detergent, shaving cream, soap, vaseline lotion, air fresheners, nail color and remover, paint and varnish remover) --

On EPA Hazardous Waste list; symptoms:

fatigue; irritating to eyes and upper respiratory tract even in low concentrations..."

"Inhalation of ethanol vapors can have effects similar to those characteristic of ingestion. These include an initial stimulatory effect followed by drowsiness, impaired vision, ataxia, stupor..."

Causes CNS disorder.
(after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) --


On EPA Hazardous Waste list;

"irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract"

"may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)"

"defatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking"

"may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys"

"Wash thoroughly after handling."

(perfume, cologne, disinfectant spray, bar soap, shaving cream, deodorants, nail color and remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, after shave, bleach, paint and varnish remover) --


"Prevent its contact with skin or eyes because it is an irritant and sensitizer."

"Always wash thoroughly after using this material and before eating, drinking, ...applying cosmetics. Do not inhale limonene vapor."
(perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, solid deodorant) --


"respiratory disturbances"

"Attracts bees."

"In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression ... development of respiratory disturbances leading to death."

"depressed frog-heart activity."

Causes CNS disorder.
(shampoo, cologne, paint and varnish remover) --

Banned by the FDA in 1988!

No enforcement possible
due to trade secret laws protecting chemical fragrance industry.

On EPA, RCRA, CERCLA Hazardous Waste lists.


"Absorbed, stored in body fat, it metabolizes to carbon monoxide, reducing oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood."

"Headache, giddiness, stupor, irritability, fatigue, tingling in the limbs."

Causes CNS disorder.
(bar and liquid soap, cologne, perfume, shaving cream, deodorants, dishwashing liquid, air freshener) --

Sensitizer (damaging to the immune system).
(cologne, perfume, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, air freshener) --

"Causes asthma and CNS disorders."
(perfume, cologne, laundry detergent, bleach powder, laundry bleach, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, vaseline lotion, cologne, soap, hairspray, after shave, roll-on deodorant) --

"highly irritating to mucous membranes"

"Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema."

Can also cause "excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, and headache."

"Prevent repeated or prolonged skin contact."

Relevant Facts You Will Want to Know

You'll want to know --
  • Ninety-five percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum.

    They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxics and sensitizers -- capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.

    "Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace," Report by the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986. (Report 99-827)

  • Chloroform was found in tests of fabric softeners: EPA's 1991 study.

  • A room containing an air freshener had high levels of p-dichlorobenzene (a carcinogen) and ethanol: EPA's 1991 study.

  • An FDA analysis (1968-1972) of 138 compounds used in cosmetics that most frequently involved adverse reactions, identified five chemicals (alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, limonene and linalool) that are among the 20 most commonly used in the 31 fragrance products tested by the EPA in 1991!

  • Thirty-three million Americans suffer from sinusitis (inflammation or infection of sinus passages).

  • Ten million Americans have asthma. Asthma and asthma deaths have increased over 30 percent in the past 10 years.

  • Headaches cost $50 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses and 157 million lost work days in 1991. "Focus on Fragrance and Health," by Louise Kosta, The Human Ecologist, Fall 1992.

*  Identification of Polar Volatile Organic Compounds in Consumer Products and Common Microenvironments, Lance Wallace, U.S. EPA, Warrenton VA; William C. Nelson, US EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC; Edo Pellizzari, James H. Raymer, Kent W. Thomas, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC; March 1991. Paper #A312 to be submitted for presentation at the 1991 Annual Meeting of the AWMA. (EPA/600/D-91/074)

Additional information from
World Health Organization Publications



Concise International Chemical Assessment Document,
No. 5 1998, iv + 32 pages [E, with summaries in F, S]
ISBN 92 4 153005 7 13.-/US $11.70; in developing countries: 9.10
Order no. 1380005

A concise assessment of the risks to human health posed by exposure to limonene, a chemical released to the atmosphere in large amounts from certain trees and bushes as well as from anthropogenic sources. In industry, limonene is used as a solvent in degreasing metals prior to industrial painting, for cleaning in the electronic and printing industries, and as a solvent in paint. The compound is also used as a flavour and fragrance additive in food, household cleaning products, and perfumes.

The document is part of a new series of brief reports aimed at the characterization of hazards and dose-response for exposures to selected industrial chemicals. With this goal in mind, documents focus on studies and findings considered critical for risk characterization.

In experimental animals exposed to limonene, the liver is the principal target organ; exposure affects the amount and activity of different liver enzymes, liver weight, cholesterol levels, and bile flow. Studies indicate that limonene is not genotoxic and has no teratogenic or embryotoxic potential. No case reports or epidemiological studies were available for the evaluation of health effects in humans.

For the general population, food is identified the principal source of exposure. The report established a guidance value for the ingestion of limonene of 0.1 mg/kg body weight per day. The report further concluded that, at current estimated levels of intake, limonene in food does not represent a significant risk to human health.


Methylene Chloride
Second edition

Environmental Health Criteria, No. 164
1996, 242 pages [E, with summaries in F, S]
ISBN 92 4 157164 0 46.-/US $41.40; in developing countries: 32.20
Order no. 1160164

Evaluates the risks to human health and the environment posed by exposure to methylene chloride. Due to its volatility, stability, and properties as a solvent, methylene chloride is widely used in aerosols, paint removers, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, polyurethane foam manufacturing, and metal cleaning.

Virtually all atmospheric release of this chemical result from its use as an end-product by various industries, combined with the use of paint removers and aerosol products at home
. The general public is exposed to methylene chloride primarily through the use of consumer products, such as paint removers, which can result in relatively high indoor levels.

The most extensive sections evaluate the toxicity of methylene chloride in experimental animals and humans, giving particular attention to studies indicating carcinogenic potential in some species.

Studies indicate that methylene chloride is rapidly absorbed through the lung and gastrointestinal tract, is distributed throughout the body, and rapidly excreted via the lungs. The main toxic effects in exposed humans are reversible central nervous system depression and carboxyhaemaglobin formation.

Studies have also reported liver and renal dysfunctions, haematological effects, and neurophysiological and neurobehavioural disturbances.
Although several studies have investigated the link between human exposure to methylene chloride and cardiovascular disease and cancer, the report cites several inadequacies in these studies and concludes that no firm link with either cardiovascular disease or cancer can be made.

Concerning risks to the environment, the report concludes that, with the exception of accidental spills, use of methylene chloride has no significant impact on the environment.

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The Works of Julia Kendall (1935 - 1997)

Making Sense
of Scents

Twenty Most Common Chemical Found in 31 Fragrance Products

The Health Risks of Fabric Softeners

Feel free to copy and post, just please credit Julia Kendall.

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