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Health alert: Avoiding synthetic fragrances 4/12
(This article is adapted from the April 2012 ShopSmart magazine.)

What do you get when you cross a comedian with a laundry product? The answer: Amy Sedaris advertising for Downy Unstopables fragrance beads for your wash.

Just a few shakes of the crystals can give your clothes "a fresh, feisty scent that just won’t quit," says the ad copy.

But Consumer Reports environmental experts say you should get nervous about smells that won't quit, especially when you don't know what you're smelling. The product's label just says "perfume dispersant, perfume and dyes." The manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, told Consumer Reports that perfume ingredients are "proprietary information," but it says that the chemicals they use are at safe levels.

Why should you care: Because synthetic fragrances can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be a problem for people with asthma or other respiratory problems, especially when a scent lingers in the air for days. Just handling products with VOCs can be irritating for people with allergies.

Some products also might contain phthalates (P & G says Unstopables does not have them), which are linked to hormonal disruption and reproductive problems.

Bottom line: Fragrances are in lots of products, but using concentrated fragrance designed to linger in your clothes for days may not be a great idea.

Related links

Cleaners: Green buying guide. 1/11

Personal care products: Green buying guide. 12/10

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