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Green Products Hiding Dangerous Compounds

March 13, 2015

Study shows “fragrances” may be more than they appear.

While products marketed as green, natural, and organic can appear to be better for the environment and human health, a new study finds that many of these products could be emitting VOCs from ingredients not disclosed on product labels. The study from the University of Melbourne examined 37 consumer products such as air fresheners, cleaning products, and laundry supplies, including those with green certifications in both fragrance and fragrance-free varieties. The research found 156 different VOCs being emitted from the products tested, of which 42 are classified as toxic or hazardous in the U.S.

Also noteworthy was the finding that less than 3% of the 550 volatile ingredients discovered were disclosed on the product’s label or MSDS documentation. The chemical most commonly found in fragranced products were terpenes, which can react to ozone and create a range of additional pollutants such as formaldehyde and ultrafine particles. The researchers note that in the U.S. and most of the world, consumer products are not required to list ingredients that are part of “fragrance.”

“Given the lack of information, consumers may choose products with claims such as green, natural, or organic, but those claims are largely untested,” says Dr. Anne Steinemann, author of the study.

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