EHN [of California]
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Larkspur, California, 94977-0074

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Synthetic fragrances:
IAQ, health, access adversely affected

February 1, 2000

Dear Ms. Coleman:

I just searched ED site ( for "fragrance" and found references to action by the EDF back in 1978! and the mention of the word fragrance in this year, 2000, thusly: "Do get down on your hands and knees to inhale the exquisite, spicy fragrance of the blooms ...?

Who can smell the blooms with the trail, park ... or office, shared by odorovectors of synthetic toxic chemical fragrance formulations?

Your scorecard is a wonderful effort and something to which I've turned to from time to time. But it concentrates on outdoor air. And while outdoor air pollution is an important subject, the Environmental Protection Agency states we spend 90 percent of our time in doors and indoor air is 2 - 5 times, and up to 100 times, more polluted than outdoor air. Now true enough, we do bring outdoor air indoors, but that doesn't make indoor air more polluted than outdoor air. EPA

It is in large part, the consumer products that we have been told we need to use to be "clean" and "fresh" that contribute mightily to the pollution. I'm seeking updated info from California Air Resources Board ... assuming they have it ... but back in 1990 they stated in: *Consumer Products and Smog* "In 1990, consumer products emitted about 265 tons of smog-forming pollution into California's air every day-more than all the refineries and gas stations in the state. Until 1990, the amount of VOCs in these products wasn't regulated."

And now the Institute of Medicine (IOM), January 19, 2000, released information regarding fragrances as a trigger of asthma in a report titled, "Study Finds Strong Evidence That Exposure to Some Indoor Substances Can Lead to or Worsen Asthma." IOM states: "For biologic or chemical contaminants that could worsen asthma symptoms, limited or suggestive evidence exists regarding exposure to material shed by domestic birds; certain types of pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); secondhand tobacco smoke in older children and adults; formaldehyde fumes from furniture and building materials; and fragrances in personal care and household products."

But let's back up a minute ... to before we become known as human beings to the "outside" world. What about mothers who use fragrances -- or even encounter heavy amounts of toxic fragrance chemicals in the air they breathe daily in the workplace? Please have your health staff visit these sites:

The Good Scents Company
"Just a note, personally, if someone is pregnant, we would not use any Fragrance, Essential Oil or Aromatherapy items."

"Perfume and Fragrance Exposure During Pregnancy
Links to Learning Disabilities, ADD and Behavior Disorders"

In view of this documentation, I should hope your health staff deems it necessary to turn its attention to indoor air and how it is being seriously polluted to the detriment of health for all -- young, old, in-between, already sick, disabled, as well as the still-healthy who are presently unaware they are really just waiting for their toxic-chemical time bomb to go off. . . Environmental Illness not only includes Chronic Fatigue, Gulf War, Sick Building, Sick School syndromes and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, it also includes people diagnosed with Parkinson's, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, Migraines, ... cancers.

As it is, the fragrance industry is allowed to continue turning out products of toxic chemical formulations, without informint the public. The fragrance industry is unregulated and further protected by trade secret laws. The general public has not been informed by mainstream media -- at best, they'll describe the plight of "the few" -- we're really MILLIONS! -- and most often rush to label Environmental Illnesses as all in the heads of the beholder. See the recent spate of "Mass Hysteria" stories, spun off a poorly-crafted, erroneous article in the New England Journal of Medicine. These documents are available as links from the Environmental Health Network's page, "Stuff Happens!" at

If we cannot count on Environmental Defense to protect us from indoor air pollution as well as outdoor air pollution; if we can't count on ED to brave the front built by the fragrance industry with the media, who can we count on?

Certainly not mainstream media, who fills its advertising coffers with fragrance industry dollars -- and worse! (e.g., *Holiday '99: Malicious Lies & Tantalizing Truths* "The Fragrance Foundation and the New York Times invite you to the first meeting of the New Millennium" -- would I ever LOVE to be a "fly" for that one! I can just imagine their version of "Malicious Lies & Tantalizing Truths." No wonder our succinctly written letters never get printed by the *NY Times,* or other newspapers for that matter.)

Certainly not our government ... at best authority over fragrances is fragmented among three agencies: FDA, EPA and Consumer Products Safety Commission. And at worse, the FDA does not regulate the industry although the industry would like you to believe it does. To top it off, the FDA seemingly still harbors the belief that fragrances are personal preference products. So are cigarettes and other tobacco products, but there are limits placed upon where/how one can use those personal preference products because they leave the body of the user to pollute the air for all!

Before I close, have you seen the recent E-Magazine article? "Smelling Good But Feeling Bad Synthetic Perfumes, Colognes and Scents Are Turning Up Noses " By Damon Franz and Holly Prall

I fervently hope you can get back to me with the great news that your health staff are indeed intrigued with the subject of fragrances and their adverse effects upon health and that ED will immediately begin tackling this major source of toxic chemicals released to our environment ... environment immediately around us indoors and out, as well as that "downstream," because these products also adversely affect lakes and streams, fish and wildlife.

Thank you for your time.


Barbara Wilkie
(My convention is prevention)

More Environmental Defense (aka EDF) correspondence:

  • Do Something Directly for
    Our Country - Our Children!


  • Endangered species is closer than you think!

Return to Index of Letters To Inform and Of Rebuttal

Tell the FDA about YOUR adverse fragrance reactions today !
Subject line: Docket Number "99P-1340/CP 1"

For more information on the analysis of six fragrnces, see:

For well researched and documented information on fragrance products, please visit:
Fragranced Products Information Network

For extensive links to eclectic information, visit the Environmental Health Network

Comments? (Barb's email is no longer valid, please contact EHN). Please put WWW in subject line. Thanks.

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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. HomePage is