“Ban air fresheners, ban methylisothiazolinone” – can petitions work?

Tesco air freshener - contains MI / MCI

Tesco air freshener – contains MI / MCI

I was emailed recently by Annali Lowdon, who has started this petition to ban the use of air fresheners in public places. 

As she says:

“The use of air fresheners in public spaces has become increasingly widespread. The health of the general public has been overlooked and it has become almost impossible to avoid contact with air fresheners and indoor pollutants … [they] have a detrimental affect on health, particularly on those suffering from asthma, respiratory problems and allergy.”

I agree with her. I’ve written previously on the problem with fragrance, and an early post on this site – Fragrance, Methylisothiazolinone and the air we breathe – examined the issue of fragrance and MI in the home, via air fresheners and paints. But exposure in the home is something you can address; exposure in public places and in offices is something you usually cannot. 

Bye Bye, MI? 
I would support the ban on fragranced air fresheners – on the basis that they are wholly unnecessary. But what about a ban on MI? 

Not surprisingly, there are also petitions calling for such a move, one called Ban METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE from all Products – WORLDWIDE and another Ban Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone

The problem, of course, is that, although MI is not necessary – preservatives are. The argument which some chemists put forward is one we shouldn’t ignore: that banning individual preservatives limits the palette of preservatives available to formulators, meaning those remaining permitted preservatives will have to be used in greater quantities, increasing the risk of allergies to them developing, in the future. 

I’m still on the fence with regard to an MI ban, and think an open mind is needed. Needed more urgently are: 

a / labelling transparency – making it compulsory to declare MI on any product whatsoever – much in the same way it is compulsory to declare certain food allergens (such as nuts, wheat/gluten and milk) on foods;

b/ some new and innovative systems protecting MI sufferers from inadvertent public exposure – for example, via paints in public building interiors (compulsory ‘recently painted’ warning signs?) and via soaps in public restrooms (compulsory labelling declarations?), for example. 

I’m not sure how likely petitions are to work. Perhaps concerted proactive action from individuals can work better? Ask the manager at your favourite cafe to make sure they use MI-free dishwashing products in their kitchen. Ask the office manager at your place of work to order MI-free bathroom cleaning products for the cleaners to use. Raising awareness in this way can be a great help.

And if MI-containing brands lose sales revenue to MI-free brands – perhaps they’ll reconsider their formulations in future, which is what many of us ultimately want … 

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