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Fragrance: The New Second Hand Smoke

Scents are not just a nuisance for people who are averse to them, they can actually cause health problems.
air fresheners and asthma

Fragrance: The New Second Hand Smoke

Jamie McConnell
Jamie McConnell
Director of Programs
& Policy

As if we needed another reason to stop using fragranced products, a recent analysis found that fragrance was the official culprit in a number of  work-related reports of asthma. The study looked at asthma associated with exposure to air fresheners, perfumes, colognes, and other personal care products in the workplace.

Interestingly, almost a quarter of cases of fragrance-associated asthma in the workplace occurred in workers who had no previous history of asthma, but developed it as a result of exposure to scented products on the job. Cases of asthma as a result of fragrance exposure were found to be more likely in offices, and health and education jobs. And not surprisingly, more women than men were impacted.

This study helps demonstrate that scents are not just a nuisance for people who are averse to them, they can actually cause health problems. This is supported by another study done in 2016 that found 34.7% of the population report adverse reactions such as migraines, asthma attacks or rashes when exposed to fragrance.

The good news is there are solutions that will help alleviate this public health threat. Back in 2000s the country saw a blanket of smoking bans in public spaces such as restaurants, bars, government buildings, etc. Similarly, we need to start instituting fragrance-free policies in public spaces. There are some good resources out there to help you advocate and develop fragrance-free policies for your workplace, schools, the gym, and other public places.

You can also join thousands of others and take Women’s Voices for the Earth’s fragrance-free pledge. Help spread the word by sharing the pledge on your favorite social media sites.

Together, we can create safe, health spaces to live, work and play.

12 Responses

  1. Lissa

    How do I get fragrance out of a car? I bought a used car, and it reeks. I thought I could clean it up, but so far nothing has worked. I tried an enzyme cleaner, borax, baking soda…nothing cleans up this toxic fragrance! Do you know of anything that works?

  2. Some possible ideas: place charcoal in a container and leave it in your car; place numerous boxes of baking soda (opened) in the car and leave them there; place a bowl of coffee beans or ground coffee in your car; smudge the inside of the car numerous times with sage. Also: put floor mats and anything that can be taken out of the car outside in strong sunlight for as long as possible.

    I think many fragrance products adhere to plastic and air vent components, so it’s really difficult to completely remove them.

    Please let us know if you find a solution that works. Artificial fragrances make me sick!.

  3. Mary M

    Maybe try these…http://www.mosonatural.com/

    Also, have you tried putting an air purifier machine in your car and let it run all night? Maybe you can park in the garage or near an electrical outlet..

    In addition, try making a DIY spray with pure essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree, and lemon to clean the air.

  4. John

    Wow. Make sure to look in the vents to see if there were scented products placed in them. Hmm. It may just take numerous attempts to get your car scent free. Bought a house recently and the dishwasher reeked. It took months and months of running vinegar and lemon juice thru it. Now, the small is gone! Thank God.leave bowls of vinegar and baking soda in this vehicle overnight and keep doing this s often s possible. I would not use more scents to get rid of scents, I.e., essential oils. You’re just doing more smell… and to what? To mask it? No…?? use charcos well.

  5. Barbara

    I think rental car agencies use portable ozone machines to shock treat cars when customers smoke, etc,… in them to remove the odors. You may be able to rent one. But you have to be sure to air the car out thoroughly afterward.

  6. Kay

    I had a new car with that “new car smell”, VOCs…so I put a plant that uses up those chemicals, recommended by NASA, for a month. My car was parked outside, so it got sun. It worked!

  7. Joanne

    Leave the windows open, even cracked, as often as possible – especially on hot days when more of the VOC’s are getting airborne.

  8. Rachel

    most likely you will never get it out–my brother has tried almost everything for 3 years—the one thing I think might work would be difficult–totally fill you car with green leafy plants-any kind-leave several days-then you would have to remove and water and maybe repeat—the reason I think this might work is I used to work for a city in horticulture–I use the stinky van from the waste treatment department to go get plants–the van was filled except for my seat-within 15 minutes of driving home it was filled with fresh oxygenated air

  9. Joana

    Yes, please let talk about this. Colleagues at work (in Portugal) still look at me as if I was an alien when I ask them to use less perfume.

  10. Mel

    In response to Mary – essential oils ARE fragrances. They don’t clean the air, and actually emit air pollutants like benzene and toulene. You’re just covering up a scent with another scent.

  11. Thank you for bringing that up Mel. Essential oils trigger my asthma as much as perfumes, air fresheners, dryer sheets etc. True clean is NO smell

  12. Megan

    LIssa, you can purchase hydrogen peroxide bombs online for this purpose, they work really well. Just follow the instructions carefully and use them on a day when the outdoor temperature is correct, and you might find it does the trick. It worked great for me and I am extremely sensitive to fragrance.

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