There was an interesting article in the BBC Magazine last week – “Is there a danger from scented products?“
The idea that fragrances in the form of fragrance allergens could be harming us is not new. EU Cosmetics are required to list any of the 26 named fragrance allergens they contain on their products, so that people with skin allergies / contact dermatitis can more easily avoid them. And concerns have been raised for many years about the chemical drugstore of petrochemically-derived ingredients which are permitted to be used in perfumes and eau de toilettes, their provenance and potential toxicity obscured by the catch-all term “parfum“. Sounds so French, chic and safe, doesn’t it?
It’s the atmosphere inside the home the article focused on. While the level of fragrance chemicals – and any preservatives they contain – are limited in products for safety – might they build up behind closed doors and windows to levels which are beyond safety?
Yes, according to researchers, who found particularly high levels of the fragrance allergen limonene – found naturally in lemons, and used to impart a citrus smell in many household cleaners and personal care products. In itself, limonene is safe – but it can, however, react with ozone in the air to create formaldehyde – a cancer-causing chemical. As the article says, enjoying “the aroma of fragranced candles … air fresheners and cleaning products” might be leading us to expose ourselves “to a serious nasty”.
You have to wonder why we go to such lengths to fragrance our homes and our selves? Is it the fear of smelling bad, of inviting a guest into your home and offending their nose with last night’s curry or this morning’s visit to the loo?
It would be better to open a window. Air fresheners are unnecessary. Take this Tesco Everyday Value Air Freshener Floral Gel for 39p. Would you really want it in the home? The price alone ought to tell you it can’t possibly contain anything that might conceivably do you good. The only compliment I can pay it is that it does the honourable thing in declaring its methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone preservatives in the formulation, with an allergy warning – and various other alarming health warnings.
Method air refreshers use MI and benzisothiazolinone (BIT), characterising each ingredient as “low skin and eye irritation”. Many would beg to differ. MI-allergy sufferers visiting homes and offices can’t possibly know when such fragrancing products – and the preservatives that must necessarily come with them – will be used.
The solution to beat formaldehyde is houseplants, suggests the article. Whether that works with MI / MCI I don’t know, but the better solution would be to avoid bringing isothiazolinones into the home at all – not only via air fresheners, but via paints, and other products.
I’ve yet to pull together a resource of isothiazolinone-free air fresheners, but if you know of any please let me know. I’m awaiting confirmation from the brands concerned, but the Earth Friendly Products Uni-Fresh range of air fresheners appear to be free from isothiazolnones, and so do these Primavera Air Sprays (UK only). This Natural HomeLogic Jasmine Mist Odor Eliminator is confirmed MI-free. Though I still think the window option is your best bet …
For a selection of MI-free paints, see our Paints Directory here.