Dr. Anne Steinemann is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Washington. She is also currently a visiting researcher at the University of California in San Diego.
This interview covers the gamut of this topic from the discovery of these chemicals, laws and labeling to the seriousness of the exposure to their toxicit, as well as the moderate to disabling adverse health affects reported from large populations of people.
Dr. Steinemann shares why she does this research:
I’ve had hundreds of people, now thousands of people tell me they were getting sick from common fragranced products. Now, these are products that are widely used and sold in American and other countries. Things such as air fresheners, disinfectant sprays, dyer sheets, detergents, household cleaners, soaps, shampoos, lotions. And these health affects were dramatic. They ranged from migraine headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness, asthma attacks, seizures, rashes, even loss of consciousness. So, I’m trying to figure out what’s in these products that’s causing these health affects. Because if you look at the labels, the ingredients all seem fairly benign.
Dr. Steinemann explains some of her findings:
…19% of the U.S. population reported adverse health affects to air fresheners and deodorizers, 10.9% from laundry products vented outside and 30.5% from scented products on others (and these percentages were higher among asthmatics). And, for some people, a low level of exposure can be quite hazardous: asthma attacks, seizure, loss of consciousness.
Dr. Steinemann notes that many more people are most likely affected by these chemicals, but do not make the correlation. She says:
For other people, even a low level exposure may affect their health, but without their awareness; so, the symptoms are sub-clinical. Or, they think “Oh I have a headache. It’s part of life. I’ll take an aspirin.”
Now, some of the most common complaints from exposure are things such as headaches, breathing difficulties, kind of feeling sick, overall loss of productivity, loss of quality of life. So, I should say that cancer is not the only health affect of concern, but these products can have a range of adverse health affects, oftentimes without our knowledge or attribution.
Dr. Mercola admits to being accused of being an “alarmist” at times, but seems to find Dr. Steinemann’s research to not only be interesting or possibly concerning, but extremely important. Dr. Steinemann addresses this:
And, so to answer your question, “Are we alarmists?” Well, for some people, a low level exposure is very serious and disabling and for other people, it may be affecting them and they’re not aware of it.
Dr. Steinemann responds to the product manufacturers’ statements that the chemicals are not a concern, because they are low levels:
As I previously mentioned, for some people, actually, for a significant percentage of the population, low levels are very hazardous. … But, I should say that there is an issue with low levels: Low levels add up. We’re exposed, not just to one product at one time; we’re exposed to multiple products, from multiple sources throughout the day. Some of these chemicals in these products have no safe exposure level. And in real life, we’re exposed to mixtures of chemicals, not just one chemical and these chemicals can interact with each other. And we have so little information on the hazardous affects of these mixtures of chemicals.
And, finally, for some chemicals, we are also finding about a non-monotonic dose response relationship. That means low levels can actually be more hazardous than higher levels. And, so this whole issue of low levels doesn’t really hold up as to why we shouldn’t be concerned about potential safety of these products.
Dr. Mercola replies, “So, it is definitely affecting a significant percentage of the population, there’s no question about that. And a large percentage of people may not even be aware of it, because … there’s no warning about it.”
Dr. Anne Steinemann Interview About Fragranced Chemicals. Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. Anne Steinemann. Video. Mercola YouTube Channel by Mercola.com. August 14, 2012.
Mercola.com. Take Control of Your Health. www.Mercola.com.
(2010 Study, Steineman) Steinemann, Anne C., MacGregor, Ian C., Gordon, Sydney M., Gallagher, Lisa G., Davis, Amy L., Ribeiro, Daniel S., Wallace, Lance A. (2010). Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. University of Washington, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Evans School of Public Affairs, WA. Environmental Impact Assessment Review. Elsevier. xxx (2010) xxx-xxx. EIR-056-86; No of Pages 6.
(2010 Press Release, Hickey) Hickey, Hannah (October 2010). University of Washington. Scented Consumer Products Show to Emit Many Unlisted Chemicals. Article references 2010 Study, Steineman.
(2011 Press Release, Hickey) Hickey, Hannah (August 2011). University of Washington. Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents. Article references 2011 Study, Steinemann (above).