PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Do you buy cleaning products just because they smell good?

A new study found that while pleasing to the nose, those fragrances could be bad for your health.

Lemon, powder fresh, Hawaiian breeze and vanilla cupcake are just some of the scents you’ll find in household items today. But while they smell nice, the study says the chemicals used to make those sweet scents may have ugly effects on your health.

“I had so many calls and emails from hundreds of people telling me they were getting sick from common fragranced household products,” said Anne Steinemann, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Steinemann studied more than two dozen commonly used scented items.

“All of them emitted chemicals that are classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws,” she said.

Steinemann says that more than a third of the products, even some labeled organic, emitted at least one chemical – like formaldehyde – deemed carcinogenic by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“These are chemicals that can damage the lungs, the brain, the central nervous system,” said Steinemann.

She says that you would never know it by looking at the label because fragrances are considered proprietary – so they’re under no obligation to list their ingredients.

“The paradox is, if these chemicals were coming out of a smoke stack, we would know about it and it would be regulated,” said Steinemann. “If it’s coming out of an air freshener you wouldn’t know about it and it’s not regulated.”

Dr. Tod Bania, a toxicologist, says the levels of potentially hazardous chemicals found in these products are considered low.

However, if used frequently, over prolonged periods of time, there is cause for concern. Experts say that’s especially true for anyone who has pulmonary diseases or asthma.

Faith Wurtzel says scented products make her feel so sick, she’s always questioned what they’re made of.

“It causes instant nausea,” said Wurtzel. “The industry is not being honest about what’s really in these products,”

The Fragrance Materials Association says scented products are safe. In a statement they said the “study presents no new data or breakthrough analysis.”

They likened it to “crystal ball gazing” that “cannot be compared to the sound, independent four-step safety testing … carried out by the fragrance industry.”

Environmental Protection Agency
Fragrance Materials Association
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