Chemical sensitivity, asthma, and effects from fragranced consumer products: national population study in Sweden
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Common chemical products and pollutants—such as pesticides, solvents, new building materials, and fragranced consumer products—have been associated with adverse health and societal effects. For some, the effects can be severe and disabling. This national population study in Sweden examined the prevalence and effects of chemical sensitivity, a condition characterized by health problems from chemical pollutant exposures. In addition, it examined the prevalence of medically diagnosed multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), and the co-occurrence of chemical sensitivity with asthma and asthma-like conditions, and with fragrance sensitivity (health problems from fragranced consumer products). Using a nationally representative sample, an online survey was conducted in July 2017 of adults in Sweden (n = 1100). This study found that, across the population, 18.5% report chemical sensitivity; 3.6% report medically diagnosed MCS; 23.2% are asthmatic, with diagnosed asthma (14.9%), an asthma-like condition (9.1%), or both; and 33.1% have fragrance sensitivity. Among the chemically sensitive, 49.0% are asthmatic and 86.8% are fragrance sensitive. Among asthmatics, 39.2% are chemically sensitive and 57.3% are fragrance sensitive. Health problems from fragranced products can be potentially disabling for 40.1% of the chemically sensitive and 36.3% of asthmatics. In addition, among the chemically sensitive, 24.0% have lost workdays or lost a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace. Results indicate that chemical sensitivity is a widespread condition, affecting more than 1 million adults in Sweden, with fragrance sensitivity affecting nearly 2 million. Reducing chemical exposure to problematic sources, such as fragranced consumer products, is critical to reduce adverse health and societal effects.
KeywordsVolatile organic compounds Fragrance Sweden Chemical sensitivity MCS
I thank the reviewers of this article for their valuable comments and contributions.
Compliance with ethical standards
The research study received ethics approval from the University of Melbourne.
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