The benefits of fragrance-free

What is a fragrance?

A "fragrance" is a scent made of a mix of volatile chemicals and other components. A fragrance is meant to provide an aroma or cover an odor.
A "fragrance-free policy" is a protocol, principle, or plan meant to encourage a fragrance-free atmosphere.

What are fragranced products?

A fragranced product is a product that contains an added fragrance. Some examples are air fresheners, deodorizers, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, essential oils, candles, soaps, personal care products, colognes and hand sanitizers.

The problem

Perfume is among the top five human allergens in the world. It severely damages both humans and domestic and wild animals.

Fragranced products have been linked to a variety of negative human health and societal effects in the general population, especially in sensitive sub-populations like asthmatics.

On average: 32% of the general population report adverse health effects when exposed to fragranced products.

58% of individuals with asthma-like conditions, 76% with autism spectrum disorders, 82% with chemical sensitivity report adverse effects from fragranced products.
Types of adverse health effects among the general population: 17% respiratory problems, 13% mucosal symptoms, 13% migraine headaches, 9% skin problems, 7% asthma attacks, 5% neurological problems, long-term risks include hormonal dysfunction from endocrine disruptors and cancer.

Secondhand exposure

In a similar way to "secondhand smoke" from tobacco goods, extensive exposure to fragranced products leads to the problem of "secondhand scents", or unintended or involuntary contact to which the general population is exposed weekly.

Fragranced goods can be a major source of indoor air pollutants, although indoor air quality is not well-regulated or monitored.

In addition, fragranced items have been implicated as important contributors to outdoor air pollution, as their emissions travel outdoors from products used not only outdoors but also indoors.

There's lack of information about individual chemicals in a fragranced product, because no law in any country requires the disclosure of all the constituents on the label, safety data sheet, or elsewhere.

Instead, a product may use the generic phrase "fragrance" (or another legally acceptable term like "perfume") to describe itself instead of all of the ingredients separately, although a product's "fragrance" is made up of tens to hundreds of compounds, with approximately 4,000 identified fragrance components.

There's lack of knowledge about which specific chemicals or mixtures of chemicals in fragrance could be triggering the adverse effects.

In population-based research, however, all forms of fragranced items were linked to negative health impacts. As a result, a broad approach addressing a product category (fragranced products) could be beneficial (similar to smoke-free policies addressing tobacco products).

Costly damage

High monetary and non-monetary costs associated with: adverse health effects, lost workdays and lost jobs, loss of access, disability, risk and litigation, indoor and outdoor air pollutants, and purchases of fragranced products such as air fresheners.

Who and what is addressed by fragrance-free policies?

Fragrance-free regulations offere various approaches yet with a common theme: all requested individuals to avoid or refrain from using fragranced consumer products inside the venue.
The policies provide examples from public buildings, organizations, educational facilities, government agencies, health care providers, hospitals, communities, private businesses, and restaurants. They address employees, members, visitors, participants, occupants, faculty, staff, students, parents, patrons, guests, the public, contractors, cleaning staff, volunteers, patients, and all who enter the buildings.
For example, scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.

Why are fragrance-free policies implemented?

  • to provide guests with the healthiest indoor air quality possible and to create buildings that are good for the environment and healthy for humans;
  • to reduce overall health risks or to promote a healthy environment, that is fragrance and pollution-free on its properties and in its programs;
  • to accommodate those with fragrance sensitivity. The goal is to be sensitive to participants, staff, other volunteers, and visitors with perfume and chemical sensitivities;
  • fragrance is inappropriate for a professional work atmosphere, and some fragrance containing items may be harmful to the health of employees who have chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, or chronic headaches/migraines.

Do people prefer fragranced or fragrance-free environments?

48% of the general population would be supportive of a fragrance-free policy in the workplace
51% would prefer that health care facilities and health care professionals be fragrance-free
60% would choose a hotel without fragranced air.
The percentages are higher among vulnerable sub-populations.
The information on this page has been extracted from the paper
Ten questions concerning fragrance-free policies and indoor environments
A. Steinemann - Building and Environment, 2019 - Elsevier

The fragrance-free cleaning solution

The sustainable alternative to using of polluting chemicals and fragranced products is saturated dry steam, which is a powerful disinfectant. It is a natural method of deep cleaning that guarantees better air quality in the rooms by drastically reducing volatile chemicals.
Dry vapor steam cleaners have been shown to be very effective for sanitation and is standards compliant for food contact surfaces as well as other surfaces.
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