UW researcher: Toxic scents hiding in air fresheners, detergents

UW researcher: Toxic scents hiding in air fresheners, detergents
SEATTLE -- Air fresheners and laundry products may do us more harm than good, according to the researchers at the University of Washington.

Researchers believe the products hide toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in their fragrance. Just spray the fragrance, researchers say, and you're exposed.

UW professor Anne Steinemann studied indoor air pollution for years. She tested six best-selling brands of air fresheners and laundry products. What she found is what you see isn't always what you get.

"When you look at the back of an air freshener, what you'll see are directions, even a warning. But what you won't see are the ingredients of what's going in the air," she said.

Steinemann found ten hazardous chemicals in the products.

"They're already regulated as toxic or hazardous by federal laws," she said. But no consumer would know this even if they read the labels.

"No product needs to list the ingredients in a fragrance; a fragrance can contain several hundred ingredients and none need to be disclosed," she said.

But Cathy Cook with the Fragrance Materials Association insists Consumers are not at risk.

"We are certain that, when used in compliance with standards, these fragrance ingredients are safe and can be used with confidence," she said.

King County Environmental Specialist Tom Watson also doesn't believe fragrance is safe. He suggests natural potpourri.

"You can take things like this (potpourri) and heat them up on your stove; you don't necessarily need to douse your house with chemicals," he said.

The Fragrance Materials Association says almost any consumer products can be potentially hazardous under the right circumstances. But Steinemann worries millions of people are unwittingly becoming victims to what she calls "second-hand scent."

Steinemann would not release the brand names of the products she tested. She only said they're best-selling products.