A new report by the women’s health advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth (
) has found that allergic reaction and sensitivity to fragrance chemicals in cleaning and personal care products affects millions of Americans.
According to the report, “Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health,” fragrances in household and personal care products is one of the most frequently identified allergens. However, since companies are not required by the FDA or EPA to disclose fragrance ingredients, it is difficult for dermatologists to pinpoint specific fragrance allergens among the hundreds of ingredients that make up a scent.
Fragrance allergy usually manifests itself in the form of red bumps, blisters, itchiness and blotchiness of the skin. Frequent exposure to fragrance allergens can lead to chronic dermatitis. Fragrance can also exacerbate asthma. But due to a lack of disclosure of fragrance ingredients, dermatologists face an uphill battle in identifying what is causing a patient’s reactions, making it difficult for the patient to avoid the allergen in question.
“Every day too many women suffer from reactions to the secret chemicals used in fragrances in their household products,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research for Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We need to know what chemicals are used in scented products so we can make informed choices to protect our health.”
The report notes that allergic contact dermatitis, once a rare skin condition, is now quite common among children, and eczema has seen worldwide increases in the last decade. Overall, girls have higher rates of sensitization than boys. The disproportionate impact on women is likely due to
women’s considerably greater exposure to fragranced products throughout their lives.
The most common cosmetic products associated with fragrance allergy are deodorants, perfumes and lotions. The most common fragrance allergens found in cosmetic products are geraniol and eugenol, which give off rose and clove-like scents. The most common fragrance allergens in cleaning products are limonene and hexyl cinnamal, which give off orange and floral scents.