What other hazards are there?
It further emerges that:
- At least two of the 39 favoured laundry chemicals are suspected of causing genetic mutations.
- At least three are suspected of damaging the nervous system.
- At least one is suspected of damaging the immune system.
There is also evidence that two of them disrupt hormone activity. Hormone disruption can adversely affect reproduction, child development and a range of other bodily functions (see Appendix 1).
Research has also found links between aerosol use and urinary infections in mothers (Farrow et al., 2003).
Of the 39 perfume chemicals referred to above for use in laundry products, seven are artificial musks – a type of chemical which has been identified as a cause for particular health and environmental concern.
19 of the 39 chemicals are said not to be found in nature, and there is dispute or uncertainty over whether five others are or are not (see Appendix 1).
Whilst some natural chemicals can be harmful, they are usually quickly broken down in the body, unlike many artificial perfume chemicals. This reduces the risk of them building up to dangerous levels and causing long-term damage. Also, some adverse effects from natural chemicals are due to impurities. Damaging effects tend to be countered by other compounds in plants from which chemicals are extracted so, if these whole natural sources are used instead of isolated ingredients, adverse effects can often be avoided.
In addition to chemicals specifically designed to impart odour, there is a new potential hazard in perfumed products – nanoparticles. Despite the fact that these - like the perfumes they contain - have been barely tested for safety, they are already being used in over-the-counter ‘beauty’ and cleaning products as well as air ‘fresheners’. A 2003 patent application states: “The architecture of the polymeric encapsulator of the nanoparticle can be formulated and fine-tuned to exhibit controlled release of the entrapped payload, ranging from constant but prolonged release (desirable for drugs, biologic or anti-biologic agents, softeners, and fragrances, for example)...” (Nano-Tex, 2003)
But what do we know about the hazards from the mixtures of chemicals to which we are exposed?