Read some of the letters we have recently received:
Dear Dr. Anne Steinemann,
I am so grateful for all the studies you have done, you just don’t know, and I would like to thank you from my deepest soul.
My name is Denita and I teach in South Africa, at a primary school. I absolutely love teaching. But let me get to my issue.
The principal’s wife didn’t like the smell in the school passages and then had air fresheners installed.
All of a sudden my eyes started to itch. I didn’t understand why. By the Friday after a week in the school they were burning, red and itchy.
I started to do research and what a discovery. I copied just but about every bit of info and your pdf (on hidden hazards of air fresheners) from your website. I showed every teacher and most experienced the same problem.
I cannot work in this environment at all. My eyes were burning like fire and I had to see a doctor. My doctor is not happy as I am never sick—he was surprised to see his healthy patient. He saw my red eyes and wrote the principal a letter to remove the source of my allergy immediately, but I now have a burning sensation in my chest and throat. I am so sure that the damage is done. On top of all, not one parent in the school knows about these toxic sprays.
I am now at the stage where I do not want to go to school as it makes me very sick. I think no school can even consider to use these dangerous toxins. If these are my symptoms at the age of 53, what about the little kids age 4.
Once again A HUGE THANK YOU for the research done.
May you be blessed.
Denita L., South Africa
Dear Dr Anne,
I must tell you my headmaster finally typed me a note: "Your request for the removal of the [air freshener] has been effected."
Yes, I was not going to give up until the air freshener was removed. We have a health and safety act in South Africa and it had to be removed.
Once again PLEASE carry on with the research and caring for the world and its people.
I cannot thank you enough for the research done.
Denita L., South Africa
Thank you VERY MUCH for your research. I LOVE the category of your work.
Thank you for your continued frontrunner role in helping protect consumers from toxins that can make them ill and harm their children.
You are saving lives—most certainly—both at a day-to-day health level but also longevity.
Yay!! You are a treasure to the public.
Patricia, Seattle, WA
I would like to find ways to support the banning of air fresheners. They just installed a huge one in the lobby of my 100 year old apartment building. This air "freshener" is making me ill. I already have laryngospasm and other breathing issues but I'm a senior on low income, have rent control and no where else to go. The air freshener product is now used in over 85,000 placements. Thanks so much for any suggestions of what I can do.
I am so inspired by all the work you've done, what you have accomplished already and your dedication to this urgent cause.
Paula G., California
Guess what! My neighbor told me they finally removed it. I and only one other tenant (out of 27) complained. As you well know, people are being brainwashed into thinking these things are safe. Very few seem to be fighting them. But the two of us got doctors' notes and fought to get it out. I spent three months working on it from every angle and was relentless.
Your help, your knowledge, experience, expertise and dedication was crucial to this victory.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Paula G., California
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I am so grateful to have stumbled across your website as I thought I was losing my mind. I have been trying to live in a fragranced world since 2009 when I had surgery. At that point and time I worked for a print shop and I believe the surgery coupled with all the chemicals used in my workplace have caused my condition. It's gotten worse over the years and now I'm to the point that I just can't handle any fragrance as it causes severe headaches and asthma attacks, something I was never plagued with before. The coughing is so bad, and it's almost instantaneous.
I want to inform people and I was wondering if I could reprint some of your articles to make people aware that their personal care and laundry products, cleaning products, etc., are making people sick!
Sue J., Wisconsin
Good Morning Dr. Steinemann:
Thank you so much for your informative and wonderful website.
I live in North Carolina and am having a tough time avoiding other people's laundry product fragrances and perfumes. Not only is it invading my own clothes whenever I get near it, it's saturating so many of our shared spaces and items; i.e., restaurant chairs, grocery cart handles, gym work-out seats, it’s even on money! I spend a great deal of time just taking daily precautions. Isn’t there some way to educate folks about these fragrance toxins on a global level?
I read the Centers for Disease Control has made their own offices fragrance free...if it’s good for them, it truly makes sense for everyone to follow the same trend. I’m looking forward to any advice you can share that will stop this crazy invasion. I’m growing seriously weary of washing my clothes, spraying my inhaler, and having to take a shower after doing ordinary things.
Thank you for all you do!
Marianne H., North Carolina
Hello Dr. Steinemann,
My daycare center, which our 4 month old baby daughter has started a couple of days ago, uses air fresheners. When she comes home she smells strongly of fragrance. I am asthmatic, and I react strongly to the smell when I go there, my lungs feel very irritated after 10 minutes or so.
I asked the daycare center and they sent me a "materials sheet" from the supplier, but it only lists "aroma chemicals," no actual details. I want the school to not use any air fresheners
I am fighting not just for my kid, but for the other kids, and found out there was a state policy enacted banning air fresheners in schools, and I will be presenting that information today.
Thank you for you tireless efforts to spread the word.
You are a hero!
Ron I., Colorado
Here is the info on the state's air freshener/child care changes in policy (below). At least it is state law and it is a matter of time now before the schools learn about the new policy and remove the air fresheners.
Ron I., Colorado
The use of the following shall be prohibited:
2. Moth crystal or moth balls;
3. Toilet/urinal deodorizer blocks;
4. Chemical air fresheners; and,
5. Scent enhancing products (e.g., candles, essential oils, and spray and plug-in air fresheners, etc.)
This requirement is consistent with national standards for child care and early education.
I’m delighted to have found your website, and am hoping you can answer a question.
I’ve never had MCS, nor have I ever been particularly reactive to scents. But there’s one product out there that completely does me in: [air freshener brand].
It’s everywhere. Hotels are using it to "clean" musty rooms, for example. I recently stayed in a motel that was so laden with the stuff that I ended up spending the night in the back of my car, because I simply could not sleep in the room at all. I’ve always enjoyed vintage clothing — both for the aesthetics and for the lower ecological footprint — but increasingly, I can’t be in thrift stores, because they "freshen" the goods with this stuff to the point where it assaults me the minute I walk in the door. I’ve gotten to where I won’t get on elevators with people whose clothes were treated with it. And I’ve been known to go to the other end of the bus to avoid passengers who exude the tell-tale smell.
It gives me headaches, and closes up my nose — and the smell itself is just really off-putting. And worst of all: the brand has been so successful that [the manufacturer] is now looking for ways to stick it in more and more of their products. Which means my world is going to keep getting smaller in the future.
A little Google searching reveals that I am far from the only person who has troubles like this. Apparently, we’re a sturdy slice of the population. It seems to me that getting rid of [these air freshener products] would go a long way toward making this a more friendly world.
I have some wonderful news for you. I managed to convince [my health care facility] to remove all the fragrance "air freshener" boxes from the restrooms.
Basically they wish to turn the building back to when it truly was a clean air medical facility, up until 2 years ago when a "fragrance manager" took over servicing the building.
It is heartening to know that clean air is truly important to people.
Also, I want to let you know that my chiropractor discontinued use of the aromatherapy diffuser. Thank you for your help!
Turns out it was the ethical question (about medicating people without their consent with essential oils) that tipped the scales for them.
Becky L., California
Dear Professor Steinemann:
I was excited when I found your work after Googling "chemicals from dryers." My apartment is regularly filled with odors and I believe particulates from a dryer vent the landlord installed 10 or 12 feet under my (only) two drafty windows.
There has been no way I could prove that the dryer fumes have done me harm, and my landlord will do nothing to correct the vent situation without being forced. While I had some breathing problems to begin with (ex-smoker), since the vent was installed my breathing has noticeably worsened. I am now in a pulmonary rehab program.
So I'm writing to thank you for your extremely important work. I am really quite desperate, being poisoned in my only home.
Suzie E., New York City
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I am writing to ask for your help in determining if there is any affordable way available to me to test for tobacco smoke and particulates, and the types of VOC’s generated by the burning of incense and scented candles, and the use of fragrance generators in indoor environments, specifically my apartment in a four story building.
Airborne contaminants do readily communicate from one apartment to another in my building.
I do not use any of these products myself and, in fact, I know that I am acutely sensitive to the air contaminants I am exposed to by the activities of my neighbors below and next to my fourth floor apartment.
Exposure to these contaminants has caused me to suffer nasal and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, chest pains (I have no heart disease), burning eyes, impaired vision, physical agitation, nausea, and poor sleep quality. The noxious clouds of tobacco and chemical-scented vapors emanating from the open balcony doors of the apartment below mine are so powerful that I am unable to spend time on my balcony as well.
I have reported these conditions to management of the apartment complex where I live. Management has consistently denied my reports and ridiculed my health concerns about toxics generated by the burning of incense, scented candles, and fragrance generators.
It seems that I am left without any recourse to secure healthful living conditions as long as I am unable to provide empirical evidence of the indoor air contamination of my apartment. This is why I am writing to ask if you can recommend any means to analyze for these contaminants, so that I can provide physically measurable, or at least, presence/absence data to support my claims of air contamination in my indoor living space. Ideally I would like to sample to detect the presence of chemicals included in one of the studies presented on your website.
I will appreciate any advice you can provide.
Steve B., Seattle
A big thank you, Anne.
I suffer from these hidden chemicals and particles all the time – can’t go in most shops, can’t socialize, can’t go to concerts or plays, or on holiday – even family visits are difficult. And I am always amazed that people who take so much interest in what they eat, aren’t bothered about what they breathe.
I’m here to CONGRATULATE you on the good work you’re doing! Yes, indoor pollution (that’s what it is!) needs to be addressed with some urgency. I find some of the worst “fumes” come from deodorants, fabric conditioner/softeners and so-called air-fresheners – esp. the spray kind. I think a few whiffs of those could easily kill me –I’m not joking. It makes me so sad to think of babies (esp. those with asthma) having to sleep in all that “badly” scented air.
Sometimes I can’t bear to sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s or the dentist’s because of the “perfumes” on other people. If I force myself “not to make a fuss”, then I pay for it afterwards
Thank you again. Keep going – this is excellent work that you are doing.
Your move is a real loss for the US, but a gain for the world, for sure! Your pioneering, solid research into toxics has been crucial to public education on the pervasive health dangers of today's consumer products loaded with toxins.
Solid research like yours will be vital to restoring public interest laws & policies in 2016 & beyond! So we not only wish you well in your new position, but urge you on!
You already have made invaluable contributions to protecting the health of future generations, and it is clear your new goals & initiatives will play a critical role in ensuring the health & safety of the world's peoples.
So we very much want to stay in close touch with your continuing heroic work.
Thank you for your continued research in regard to commonly used personal and household products.
I greatly admire your courage and determination. I am certain there are many pressures on you to direct your attention elsewhere.
I will be praying that you and your work continue to be blessed at the position which you have taken at University of Melbourne.
It is astounding how difficult that it proves to be in educating consumers to the risks of the chemicals to which they are daily exposing themselves and their families.
Again, thanks so much Anne. I believe that your work and dedication should earn you a Nobel Prize. If one just looks at the number of shelves in any market that are dedicated to these perfumed and chemical products it should give us a scope on how large and serious an impact that these products are having on the environment and people’s health.
My husband and I just finished watching your interview [on You Tube]. I want to thank you for validating my issues and for educating us beyond what we knew. It was eye opening.
Have you thought about contacting former VP Al Gore and releasing your findings in a documentary entitled "An Inconvenient Truth #2"?
Thank you for being so dedicated to getting the facts out about consumer products. I always look forward to your latest research papers and will share this one with others who are affected by chemical injury.
I am so glad that your research is so widely read. It is so important to address the deceptive advertising and misinformation regarding “green, organic” and “unscented” products.
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
Thank you so much for your study on the toxic chemicals hidden under the euphemism "fragrance" - it gives a little hope to those of us who experience, on a daily basis, the disabling symptoms of exposure to the fragrances in other peoples' personal products in the workplace, and the barriers to restrooms caused by the use of air "fresheners."
As a person who was exposed directly through repeated inhalation and skin contact to massive amounts of formaldehyde, toluene and other toxic chemicals [in my former workplace], I found it amazing and tragic that many of the 9/11 workers have now joined the ranks of those of us who are disabled by fragrances; it seems that the clouds of 9/11 triggered nearly instantaneous fragrance sensitivity in many of those caught in the aftermath of the collapse.
For those of us who were already moderately sensitive, simply breathing the acrid air in the months following the attacks triggered migraines, nausea and/or severe asthma attacks on a nearly daily basis. The air here in Lower Manhattan was literally white until Thanksgiving, when the fires finally went out. Although I personally have had difficulty with any form of chemical fragrance since around 1982, the severity became literally disabling in the months following 9/11, and I now have to wear a mask just to ride the subway because of the amount of perfume and cologne worn by my fellow passengers.
I hope to live long enough to be able to do normal things again that others take for granted, such as flying in airplanes, going to movies or the opera, or even having my car serviced without it being contaminated by the cologne-wearing service techs whose clothes have been washed in those timed-release fragrance beads that [company] adds to fabric softener.
Many, many thanks for the work you are doing!
Faith W., New York, New York
I stumbled across your website searching for fragrance-free businesses. My family, my sister's family and many friends suffer from sensitivity to fragrances and chemicals. Our sensitivity has become pretty bad although we all still work, but suffer in silence since people just cannot understand how their perfumes or lotions could make a person sick. They think we just don't like the smell of it, not realizing that the toxins creating the fragrance is what makes us ill.
We were delighted to find information on the research you have done as we can use it to present to our places of employment to educate them. My employment has relocated me to a room that is not near a lot of other employees who wear fragrances. It isn't perfect but it is better. They have also changed the soap being used to a non-fragrant soap at my request. There are nearly 1,500 employees at my employment and I was happy to see that they would change the soap at the request of one person. My next request will be to have them remove the wall-mounted fragrance spray, and I will refer them to your studies.
Thank you for making your research available.
C.O., Spokane, WA
Kia Ora Anne Steinemann
I greatly appreciate the recent research you and your team have undertaken on scented household products. I have developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and I am particularly sensitive to fragranced products.
We have a difficult time living in a fragranced world and this research is exactly what we need to highlight the fact that we are just the canaries - these products are potentially harmful to us all.
So thank you again, please pass on my appreciation to your entire team.
Rosemary C., Atawhai, Nelson, New Zealand
Thank you for keeping up the fight and providing the research that so many require. Apparently it's not enough that we are losing our jobs, family and friends and becoming isolated hermits inside our homes so that we don't suffer or fall unconscious! So we need you!
Nancy M., Hercules, CA
I read your recent articles about research on these laundry products and "air fresheners." Thanks for your continuing excellent research on these products. I am suffering so badly from them that I am unemployed, and having to live in a rural area away from people because I get so sick from laundry exhaust. I dread going into public places and peoples’ homes because they may have those "air fresheners" squirting toxic chemicals into the air and onto me.
BH, Charlottesville, VA
Thank you for your investigation on the effects of laundry products. I have been driven out of my back yard, by my new neighbors, who vented their laundry onto my patio. With perfume allergies and asthma triggered by allergies I now get no pleasure in going out into my own back yard. But, there are no bylaws that govern the fouling of air in the city that I live in. I'm hoping that some day I can help to change this. Unfortunately I'm not a scientist; I need evidence that is produced by concerned people such as yourself. Your study will help me prove to my neighbors that I'm not just being picky about the air I breathe, that there can be a real danger to my health. I hope you don't mind if I reference your study when I communicate my concerns with them.
Cheryl T., Toronto, Ontario
Again I want to thank you for your research. I spoke to the facilities manager at my employment about the air fresheners in the bathrooms. I sent him one of your references and asked that they dismantle the air freshener in the restroom in my location. In less than a month, all air fresheners have been dismantled in every bathroom (5 floor office building + service buildings). It is so noticeable in the hallways - much cleaner air. So thank you again for your research and making it available.
C.O., Spokane, WA
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I very much appreciate your efforts in exposing the dangers of air fresheners. I have asthma and have become very sensitive to them. But my concern is not only for me but for my kids and other innocent people who may be otherwise healthy. The problem is that they are everywhere. The automatic metered units are in just about every public restroom. The lobby at my bank has three. I had to leave the local [cell phone] store the other day because they had two operating in a very small showroom area. I am currently trying to get my local health and fitness center, of all places, to remove some of them as they are in the locker rooms, rest rooms and even in the activity room used for exercise and yoga classes. When I brought their toxicity up to the management of the center, they appeared to be completely ignorant of the dangers posed. Please, please continue your push on this issue. The public needs the education.
Chris P., Princeton, West Virginia
Thank you for researching and writing about this issue. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your continued work to reveal what ingredients are in fragranced products that harm so many people. It is so difficult trying to "live" around products that harm you and yet you can't find out what is in them to protect yourself. Please keep up the good work you do!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Sandy W., Clark County, Washington
Thank you. I will anxiously await to read your newest discoveries. I thank God every day for someone like yourself to do the research that you have done.
Sandy L., Troy, Michigan
Dr. Anne Steinemann,
My name is Lisa and I live in Santa Monica, CA. I own a small apartment building where I have some strict rules about cleaning products and laundry detergents and those awful dryer sheets. No one can use any scented products in my laundry. No one is allowed to clean with any chemicals that can be smelled from outside their apartment. I encourage green products and do not spray in my garden or allow the use of leaf blowers.
My problem--hope you do not mind my asking you—is that the apartment building next door to me has their laundry located near my apartment and even with my complaining I cannot get the other landlord next door to stop her tenants from using scented products and those smelly dryer sheets.
Do you have any articles that you could send to me which I could give to the landlord next door? I just rented an apartment to a yoga teacher/architect and she is so happy that I do not allow such smells around the building. When I was a school teacher 1/4 of my class had some form of asthma.
Can you give me any ideas on how to persuade the owner next door and her tenants to stop with the smells? It makes me ill and my eyes hurt and ugh!
Lisa O., Santa Monica, CA
I was so pleased to see the article regarding your study on chemicals in scented consumer products. In the past five years my tolerance for scented products has diminished. I usually buy products that do not contain fragrance because of my low tolerance. Until I read the articles I had no idea it was so much more than my body just being finicky.
The recent trend where shopping malls heavily douse the air with scents has changed my shopping habits because my ability to remain in these malls is extremely limited. I don't have asthma nor do I have respiratory problems, but I do get headaches and suffer from nausea whenever I am in a mall. I also suffer from the olfactory overload caused by the strong scents.
Why is it that no one seems to be objecting to this practice in retail stores? I feel I am fortunate my body has the wherewithall to let me know I am in a dangerous situation. We now know how bad secondhand smoke is. How long before the majority of people understand how dangerous insidiously scented products/air is for our bodies and health?
Thank you for putting energy and resources into this area.
I recently came across your research/journal article regarding your study of toxic chemicals found in air fresheners and laundry products. Thank you for your research and for posting your findings. I have always had an aversion to products containing these chemical fragrances because, like many people, they make me sick. I am currently in the process of trying to get the regulations regarding their use and dryer venting codes looked at in my community. Like you, I am attempting to raise public awareness and reduce exposures to these potentially hazardous chemicals. I am wondering where I can find a complete copy of your entire research posted/published. I would like to present it to the administration in my community that oversees environmental issues, codes and regulations. I would also like to know of any other similar research that has been done and documented that you may know of. I think it is appalling that our current federal laws do not require manufacturers of consumer products to disclose the ingredients.
Dear Professor Steinemann,
I am writing to you to thank you for your recent study on fragranced consumer products. I am very interested in these studies as I have multiple chemical sensitivity and I have always wondered about the possible synergy among the chemicals we live with every day. Your article should be read by everyone in this country to become informed of the choices they make as consumers.
Sincerely, from Montana
Thank you very much for your excellent article on the dangers of the chemicals in household detergents and dryer sheets. I have a neighbor who uses something that is so strong it wakes me up at night when she uses the dryer, and I have to close my windows immediately before it makes me sick.
I am sending the homeowners association a copy of your article in hopes that it will help with my neighbor. I cannot thank you enough for the hard work you have done. It is so sad that those chemicals can be used in this day and age. Keep up the great work!
Brian B., Los Angeles, California
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I was very fortunate to come across your research via a presentation at the University of Washington. I was, and am, very impressed at both the quality and type of research you are doing and am deeply thankful that we are finally getting a better understanding of the toxins to which we are exposed (often on a daily basis). I have a master's degree from the University of Washington, with honors, and find your research both credible and extremely valuable.
The journey of learning about the impact of chemicals (some products that are harmful to me are perfumes/fragrances; laundry products such as detergents, dryer sheets, dryer balls, fabric softeners; air fresheners; and cleaning products with ammonia and/or bleach). Once I started learning about these products (which is fortunately getting well known in general thanks to people like you) I was then able to start avoiding the products. My health has improved greatly once I learned what was making me sick.
I have made personal choices in product use and also educate store owners (who sell perfumed candles and "essential oils" (The ultimate marketing myth--talk about poison to me!). If I had not learned what was making me sick, I could not have gotten those products away from me as much as possible. I thank you for your insightful research and efforts in that regard.
I distribute your research to many sources and look forward to receiving your "latest." You are saving many lives with what you are doing. Thank you for well done research on a timely and critical topic.
With highest regard,
Pat D., Seattle, Washington
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I'm a medical researcher but I'm writing for personal reasons. I see you've done research on toxic chemicals in household products like dryer sheets, and I'm looking for a paper to present to my condo complex so that I can support my argument against using dryer sheets here. The air is almost always saturated with a heavy scent of dryer sheets so I can never have my windows open or even go outside!
I'd be most appreciative if you could send me one of your studies and maybe I can convince the board so that we can all breathe more safely. Thanks so much--you're my hero and I'm so grateful for your work and research!
Nadine S., San Diego, CA
I've been looking for the information you've discovered in your study for years. I have a dream of testifying in front of Congress over this issue. Thank you for making it publicly relevant. "Second-hand scent" is a wonderful term, and is utterly appropriate. The article states, "hopefully this will cause public awareness." I'd like to push this to the logical outcome, which is legislation. Do you know of anyone currently involved on that side of things, organizing, perhaps, around this?
Thank you for doing such wonderful work in the world!
Julia M., Northampton, MA
I was so happy to read about your study of air fresheners. I have chemical allergies and I find that [brand of air fresheners] are just about the most toxic things in the world. And so pervasive. A woman down the hall from me in my old apartment building used one and I had to ask her to stop because I couldn't breathe. I hope your study gets wider publication and more people become aware of this problem. I end up sick for several days and usually get a sinus infection if I am forced to be in heavily scented air for any length of time.
Thank you for your study.
Dianne F., Madison, Wisconsin
My husband has chemical sensitivities and we now severely limit the (known) chemicals we bring into our home--certainly don't use air fresheners, for example--but we've found we can never be too careful. I appreciate your work in bringing this issue into public consciousness.
Elizabeth E., Seattle, Washington
Dear Dr. Steinemann,
I would like to thank you for the research you have done on sensitivity to fragrance and health risks of ingredients in fragranced products. I have severe MCS and my life is hugely impacted by scented products used in public spaces. I would like to send [your study] to my public library, which uses intense air "freshener" in the bathrooms of all of its branches. Even wearing a respirator I get horribly sick and am now unable to use their bathrooms. Thank you again for all of the work that you do to raise awareness about these issues.
Wishing you all the best,
L. O'Brien, London, Ontario
Thank you for your research. Because of your research, I have been able to educate personnel as well as continue to work in my classroom teaching my students without getting ill. It has not been easy, as people are very much attached to scented products and have even adopted beliefs that the scent defines who they are as an individual. It is hard to get people to understand. We would never dream of standing in the orchard or field while carcinogenic chemicals are being sprayed onto the plants to prevent disease, yet we will take those same chemicals, because they smell nice, and directly apply them to our bare skin.
Debra M., Oregon
Seeing that there are finally people studying the chemicals in these everyday products that cause us so much harm, brings a bit of hope for future relief. Keep up the good work. I fear, though, that it will take a very long time to see legislation on the subject. Look how long it took to see the seriousness of smoking and second hand smoke. These products may prove to be far more lethal in the end.
I can remember when laundry detergent just cleaned clothes, and one just opened a window to freshen the air. Now I can literally taste the laundry products in the groceries I buy because all the products in the stores are now being pickled by these products with fragrance that sticks so much and won't leave. Even people get pickled just shopping in the stores. It would be so nice if we still had a choice to smell like nothing after a day of shopping. I do look for articles from time to time to see if the word is getting out. I was happy to find your website.
Darlene B., Huntingdon Valley, PA
Dear Professor Steinemann,
As someone with severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, I am encouraged by your ongoing research into the myriad ways that humans are poisoning themselves.
I have lived with MCS for 27 years but nearly became disabled in February after four days of jury duty spent with six scented jurors in a small room. Returning to work the following day, I realized that I was in trouble. My receptivity to triggers had increased 10-fold, resulting in swollen glands, earaches, headaches, toothaches, and stiff neck and back.
Worst of all, I became mentally confused and couldn't remember anything. As a result, I could no longer absorb new information, and thus couldn't take notes or write logical sentences (a dreadful condition for a writer). Profound depression set in.
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act and an occupational/environmental physician in Boston, I was able to win workplace accommodations that have helped return me to relative health. Nonetheless, I now live a life of increasing isolation as even brief exposures to triggering agents (especially perfume and fabric softeners) bring about severe reactions and days-long recovery periods that include weakness and depression.
Please know that I am not being dramatic when I say that your work (and your obvious concern for public health), gives many of us hope for a safer, healthier, and more fulfilling future.
John B., Westport, MA
I so appreciated the article regarding Air Fresheners, in which your study was mentioned. My father, sister, and I are deathly allergic to all synthetic scents which makes going to the store a major risk.
I have a degree in voice, and sing in church choirs. All the rehearsals are fine, but whenever we perform the cantata, or special music, EVERYONE wears perfume, and I am sick for three weeks. I ask those at my church not to wear perfume, and after I get really sick and they realize it was their perfume that did it, they say, "Well, I can hardly smell it, so I didn't think it would bother you at all!" In fact, whether going to the movies, church, Bible Study, football games, or especially out to a restaurant for a nice meal, people feel they must bathe in artificial scents! It is rare I can enjoy any of these simple pleasures without having to change seats or just leave.
However, specific to the air fresheners, there is a local Dr.'s office/ER center here, called "Urgent Care," that has four air fresheners in its small waiting room, and an air freshener in each of its examination rooms. My husband's blood pressure went sky-high, and after taking him there, I was sick for nearly a month.
It amazes me that people think they are really smelling cookie dough, or real roses. The thought that they are just inhaling a combination of chemicals that happens to smell like something tasty never seems to cross their minds. You are the first I have seen who actually addressed this issue as a study, and I appreciate it.
Sharon T., West Virginia
Dear Dr. Steinemann and Associates:
I commend you for your dedication to research and public education regarding chemicals and toxins in household and consumer products. I have been severely chemically sensitive for 15 years after working in a commercial building where ventilation was seriously deficient and the indoor air was contaminated with high concentrations of numerous chemical and microbiological toxins. Until credible researchers like yourselves started focusing on such issues, it was almost impossible for someone like me to obtain specific information on what kind of chemicals were in common consumer products.
One positive effect of my own severe illness: I made it my mission to try to protect the rest of my family from a daily onslaught of chemical exposures in their lives. Unless they know a chemically sensitive person, most Americans have no idea that every day they are exposing themselves and their families to a plethora of toxic chemicals in their body-care products, clothing, office and home furnishings. Most who use scented products and "air fresheners" have no idea that they contain hazardous or toxic chemicals.
Your research and public education are vital to protecting the health and productivity of our Nation, and of course, directly relevant to reducing national health care costs. On behalf of my family, and our Nation's future generations, we commend and thank you.
I wanted to send you a personal note to thank you for your study that was recently published regarding the toxins in laundry detergents and fabric softeners.
This issue is incredibly important to me because I have multiple chemical sensitivity and after 15 months of searching for a job, I was hired by a state agency here in Olympia and started work on July 1. Upon starting the job, I immediately was sickened by the scented products being used by staff and requested an accommodation. What happened after that was truly a toxic and hostile work environment for me, ending in my termination after only 6 weeks on the job.
I wanted to write to you because the main offending product was a fabric softener and I have never had such an adverse reaction to a product in my life. I was getting nausea inducing headaches and upper respiratory inflammation and was finding it very difficult to process information and learn my new job. My anxiety was off the charts and I was literally falling apart.
Even after an air filtering system was brought in for me and I continued to use an N95 particulate respirator mask, I still had trouble with the toxins, not to mention how difficult it is to breathe through an N95 mask.
Again, thank you for your work.
M.T., Olympia, WA
Dear Professor Steinemann,
I'm writing to you regarding the recent article published about hazardous chemicals in laundry products. First of all thank you very much for performing this study.
Many years ago my immune system became compromised. One of the very first discoveries through my immune system's response reaction, which includes numbness and tingling of extremities along with severe weakening of my legs, was to especially laundry products. In fact my wife would tell you that at first I drove her nuts trying to figure out which detergents and dryer sheets were safe to use without causing reactions.
Further, I love to garden outdoors, where the majority of the time I'm fine, however, when my neighbors begin running their clothes dryers with softener sheets, I get a reaction not unlike what happens to superman when coming in contact with kryptonite. The last time it happened, after walking outside pushing a wheel barrow full of gardening tools, I literally ended up crawling on my stomach back to the house.
Franco, Rochester, New York
I was interested in your article as it is so much a part of why I had to resign from a job I loved with the [local] school district. Between the staff and the students’ perfumed laundry products and personal fragrance products, I became real ill with MCS and eventually had to resign as my immune system, after fighting to keep my health and work, basically shut down and I became seriously ill. To this day I still cannot be around it and have to come indoors when neighbors are doing their laundry. Such a debilitating and devastating life we have due to these toxic chemicals.
Sandy V., Auburn, WA
Thanks for doing the work on air quality. I live a block from the ocean (and pay the high rent) but am surrounded by laundry vents and rarely enjoy fresh air as somebody is always doing laundry with scented products of some kind. I had to leave a job because of the perfume and don't go out much to any event held indoors.
I just came across your website--thanks so much.
Rebecca N., San Diego, CA
Dear Professor Steinemann,
I just read your article on Scented Laundry Products emitting hazardous chemicals. Finally someone is starting to do something about it. My problem with chemicals began about 10 years ago. For some reason I changed our laundry detergent to [brand name]. After using [this brand] for approximately 4-5 months I started having trouble breathing. I ended up going to a medical center and they took x-rays and said that I was coming down with pneumonia.
I knew something more was going on and finally went to an herbalist. In one of my sessions she asked me if I had changed anything in my home prior to becoming so bad. After thinking about it I came up with adding [brand name] detergent. I did not realize that anything that touched your skin got into your body and could cause problems. Not only that, but I was breathing in the chemicals from my clothes and bedding. It took quite a while for me to get on top of it but I did. Gave up my inhaler and was doing really well.
Then I had to move from the apartment I was renting. Not thinking anything about it I found a cute little cottage in a very highly populated area. After about 4 or 5 months I started to get stuffed up and before I knew it I was having breathing problems again. I could smell the [brand name] in the air. I’m now in the process of finding a new place to live. It is very difficult having this problem, because you are limited in what you can do and where you can live.
MJ, Santa Barbara, CA
Dear Professor Steinemann,
I wanted to follow up and thank you for your interaction with the Transportation Division in Santa Monica. Thanks to your efforts, Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is no longer piping in perfumes through the ventilation system. This change has allowed me to use public transportation again. The change was directly in response to your educational efforts on behalf of myself and others with asthma.
JR, Santa Monica, CA
I read your 2011 paper with interest. Thank you for doing the research. But it already confirms what I already "knew."
A commercial laundry has opened directly behind my house and I only have to breathe this stuff for ten-seconds and I get an immediate throat irritation. And what is even more sinister, at a laundry, you have different consumers using different products from different manufacturers all reacting together at these activation temperatures in the exhaust. No one knows what the result is.
I will be using your published research in an effort to vindicate my concerns.
Chris A., Toronto, Canada
Hello Dr. Steinemann,
I wanted to say thank you so much for what you are doing.
My daughter is turning 11 next month, and has been sick since she was 5. We have seen three specialists, and had more tests that I can even count, no doctor had an answer for us. Anxiety attacks since the age of 5, migraines since the age of 7, and rashes that would sometimes swell one eye shut since the age of 9.
The neurologist wanted to put her on a pill a day for her migraines, and her pediatrician was talking about [antidepressants] for anxiety attacks, the allergist wants her to take [antihistamines] every day. I do not like medications unless absolutely necessary, and I believe in finding the problem, not treating the symptom, so I declined these drugs.
I found out about the ingredients in all of our products, and started doing some research on my own. I was shocked and disgusted. I pulled all of these products from my home and replaced them with true naturals.
My daughter is no longer sick. I wish I had known all of this 6 years ago, and I am irate that no doctor would tell us this. I just cannot get over that it was the chemicals doing this to her, all these years.
Thank you so much again for what you are doing!
Michelle T., North Carolina