The Fragrance Factor in Cleaning Chemicals
BLOOMINGTON, IN — Many Green chemical manufacturers now remove fragrances from their products, according to Stephen Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group and long considered “the father of Green Cleaning.”
“There is a very real reason for this. For some people, the fragrance found in these and other products can be as problematic to health as secondhand smoke.”
However, Ashkin says it is not necessarily the fragrance that may produce adverse health impacts. “Instead, it is often because some of these product fragrances have been produced from petroleum or made from ingredients we now know can harm human health.”
Public health officials report there are four categories of health effects due to fragrances. These are:
1. Respiratory, including allergic asthma, nonallergic asthma, and reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
2. Neurological, which includes headaches, migraines, nausea, dizziness, and confusion
3. Skin irritation
4. Eye irritation, tearing, and inflammation
Adverse reactions to fragrances also cost the U.S. economy more than $25 billion annually in absenteeism due to illness as well as reduced worker productivity.*
Because of this, Ashkin suggests the following steps that employers can take to help reduce the amount of fragrances found in the workplace:
• Select fabrics, upholstery, and carpets that have reduced “off-gassing” levels, and install them on the weekend, allowing time for off-gassing to dissipate.
• Strongly recommend that employees refrain from wearing perfumes and colognes.
• Limit the use of some automatic air fresheners; increase air ventilation in restrooms and foodservice areas.
• Use office air purifiers.
• Have indoor air regularly tested by an industrial hygiene professional.
• Create scent-free zones and meeting rooms.
• Educate all staffers about why exposure to scented products can be a problem.
• Select Green Cleaning chemicals; most are fragrance free.
“And take fragrance complaints seriously, even if just from one office worker,” adds Ashkin. “It is more likely than not that many others are also being impacted.”
*Adam Long, “Asthma Prevalence Rates and Employer-Paid Costs,” Medical News, Inc., September 30, 2007;
Additional Sources: Studies by Christy De Vader and Paxson Barker both of Loyola College in Maryland
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Steve Ashkin is available for interviews, presentations, and commentary on Green Cleaning-related issues, sustainable buildings, industry trends, and facility management. He may be reached by calling (812) 332-7950.
About Stephen Ashkin and The Ashkin Group
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.
Ashkin has worked in the cleaning industry since 1981 and has held senior management positions in leading consumer and commercial product companies. He began his work on Green Cleaning in 1990 and today is thought of as the "father of Green cleaning". For more information, visit www.AshkinGroup.com.