May is both Asthma and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness Month. Both of these conditions are exacerbated by pollutants in the air that we breathe. There have been major improvements in our outdoor air, so perhaps it’s time to turn our focus to our inside air.
Consumer products we use for cleaning and personal grooming can and do affect the health of those around us as many emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), especially those containing “fragrance.” Fragrance added to products can include hundreds of chemicals, many of which are untested, synthetic and made from petrochemicals (coal and tar).
Just because a product is popular and readily available does not mean it is safe to use. Continued efforts to reduce exposure from consumer products have been hindered by a lack of information on product ingredients. This is because manufacturers are not required to disclose all ingredients, especially those containing “fragrance” as they are protected by trade secret laws.
More and more employers are incorporating fragrance guidelines (ideally policies) in order to improve the air quality for their employees and this is particularly important to those of us with conditions such as asthma, multiple chemical sensitivity, and compromised immune systems. Increasing outreach and education in regards to this public health issue is critical, and we will all be the better for it as it behooves us all to be good neighbors and thoughtful in our purchasing and use of consumer products that can have serious health affects on vulnerable individuals.