Formaldehyde In Air Fresheners

May 10, 2018
Representative Fred Upton
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Upton:

We are a class of high school sophomores attending the Berrien County Math and Science Center, located on Andrews University campus in Berrien Springs, Michigan. We were required by our chemistry teacher, Dr. Desmond Murray, to research an important topic, write about the chemical and scientific aspects of it and create an informative and interesting public science announcement about it. Two of our classmates, Nathan Gustafson and Seth Rodgers, looked into the chemical dangers lurking in air fresheners. Their investigation revealed some disturbing information, especially about formaldehyde. So, our teacher encouraged us to work together as a class to write this letter to our elected representatives in Congress.

We are writing to urge you to pass an act similar to the Household Product Labeling Act of 2009, which proposed that “household cleaning products and similar products bear labels that state completely and accurately all of the ingredients of such products, and for other purposes.” We are also in support of a similar bill, the Cleaning Product Labeling Act (H.R.2728), which would require cleaning product manufacturers to label ingredients on packaging and make the list available online. Please keep our views in mind if this act comes before you in the House.

Labeling of household products must be required because it is a serious safety hazard to have chemicals like this in the home. An example of these household products is air fresheners, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that most bought from a store contains formaldehyde and other pollutants. They also contain terpenes, a type of volatile organic compound (VOC), which when released into the air react with ozone to form formaldehyde and other pollutants. Formaldehyde is a listed carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program, yet it is still allowed in household products. Also, over 20% of the US general population report negative health effects from air fresheners.

Since there is no law that requires air freshener companies to disclose their ingredients, the consumer has no idea what they are putting into their home. According to a study done by Dr. Anne Steinmann, a well-known researcher on fragranced consumer product emissions and indoor air quality, less than 10% of air freshener ingredients are actually disclosed to the public.

After speaking to several common air freshener brands (Febreze, Glade, Airwick) and researching the topic, we came to the conclusion that air freshener companies are only disclosing a small amount of the chemicals that are actually being used. Some of the undisclosed chemicals are terpenes. While air freshener manufacturers release most of their ingredients online, most companies have one ingredient that is vaguely labeled “fragrance.” The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) published a list of fragrance ingredients that are mixed together to create fragrances in consumer goods worldwide. Among this list of approximately 3,500 ingredients is “terpenes and terpenoids,” with the list noting “reaction products with formaldehyde.”

If air freshener companies were required to disclose their ingredients, the consumer would have the ability to decide whether or not they want that in their home. It is not fair that the consumer doesn’t know what they are putting in their home. This bill would protect the health of the consumer and make them more informed in their decisions. Thank you for your time and consideration of our views.

The MSC Class of 2020