Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 253–258 | Cite as

Fragranced consumer products: sources of emissions, exposures, and health effects in the UK

  • Anne SteinemannEmail author


Common in society, fragranced consumer products such as cleaning supplies and air fresheners are a primary source of volatile emissions that contribute to pollutants indoors and to personal exposure. Further, fragranced products have been associated with adverse health effects. This study investigates the sources of emissions, human exposures, and health and societal impacts from fragranced consumer products in the United Kingdom (UK). It examines the prevalence and types of fragranced product use, associated health effects, exposure situations, awareness of product emissions, and preferences for fragrance-free policies and indoor environments. Using a nationally representative population sample (n = 1100), data were collected in June 2016 using an online survey of adults in the UK, comprising England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Across the UK population, 27.8% report health problems, such as migraine headaches (8.4%) and asthma attacks (6.8%), when exposed to fragranced products. Yet 99.3% of the population are exposed to fragranced products at least once a week. When given a choice, more people would prefer that workplaces, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, and airplanes were fragrance-free rather than fragranced. Although fragranced products, even ones called green and organic, can emit potentially hazardous yet undisclosed pollutants, 75.0% of the population were not aware of this, and more than half would stop using their product if they knew it emitted such pollutants. This study provides important evidence that the UK population is regularly exposed to fragranced products, that these exposures are associated with adverse and often serious health effects, and that the public is largely unaware of their potential exposures. While more research is needed, reducing exposure to fragranced products, such as through fragrance-free policies, can provide an immediate step to reduce health risks and improve air quality.


Fragranced consumer product Fragrance Fragrance-free policy Indoor air quality 



I thank Amy Davis for her valuable assistance. I also thank the staff of Survey Sampling International for their superb work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11869_2018_550_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (54 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 54 kb)
11869_2018_550_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (209 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 209 kb)


  1. (EA) Equality Act (2010) Chapter 15. Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  2. Caress SM, Steinemann AC (2009) Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population. J Environ Health 71(7):46–50Google Scholar
  3. Carslaw N (2013) A mechanistic study of limonene oxidation products and pathways following cleaning activities. Atmos Environ 80:507–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. CCOHS Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (2015) Scent-free policy for the workplace. Accessed 23 Nov 2017
  5. CDCP (2009) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. Indoor environmental quality policy CDC-SM-2009-01, section C(1). Accessed 23 Nov 2017
  6. Elberling J, Linneberg A, Dirksen A, Johansen JD, Frølund L, Madsen F, Nielsen NH, Mosbech H (2005) Mucosal symptoms elicited by fragrance products in a population-based sample in relation to atopy and bronchial hyper-reactivity. Clin Exp Allergy 35(1):75–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eysenbach G (2004) Improving the quality of web surveys: the checklist for reporting results of internet E-surveys (CHERRIES). J Med Internet Res 6(3):e34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Farrow A, Taylor H, Northstone K et al (2003) Symptoms of mothers and infants related to total volatile organic compounds in household products. Archives of environmental health. Int J 58(10):633–641Google Scholar
  9. Johansen JD (2003) Fragrance contact allergy: a clinical review. Am J Clin Dermatol 4(11):789–798CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kelman L (2004) Osmophobia and taste abnormality in migraineurs: a tertiary care study. Headache 44(10):1019–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lunny S, Nelson R, Steinemann A (2017) Something in the air but not on the label: a call for increased regulatory ingredient disclosure for fragranced consumer products. University of New South Wales Law Journal (in press)Google Scholar
  12. Millqvist E, Löwhagen O (1996) Placebo-controlled challenges with perfume in patients with asthma-like symptoms. Allergy 51(6):434–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nazaroff WW, Weschler CJ (2004) Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos Environ 38(18):2841–2865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rastogi SC, Johansen JD, Bossi R (2007) Selected important fragrance sensitizers in perfumes—current exposures. Contact Dermatitis 56(4):201–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. SSI (Survey Sampling International) (2016) Dynamix Sampling Approach. Available from: Accessed 3 Aug 2016
  16. Steinemann AC (2009) Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environ Impact Assess Rev 29(1):32–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Steinemann A (2015) Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Qual Atmos Health 8(3):273–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Steinemann A (2016) Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Qual Atmos Health 9(8):861–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Steinemann A (2017) Health and societal effects from fragranced consumer products. Prev Med Rep 5:45–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wang CM, Barratt B, Carslaw N, Doutsi A, Dunmore RE, Warda MW, Lewis AC (2017) Unexpectedly high concentrations of monoterpenes in a study of UK homes. Environ Sci 19:528–537Google Scholar
  21. Weinberg JL, Flattery J, Harrison R (2017) Fragrances and work-related asthma—California surveillance data, 1993–2012. J Asthma 54(10):1041–1050Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Infrastructure Engineering, Melbourne School of EngineeringThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.College of Science, Technology and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

Personalised recommendations