Perfumed air, perfumed rain...

In 2005, researchers in Austria reported correlations between the use of body lotion by young adults and blood levels of the commonly-used synthetic-musk perfume chemical galaxolide (Hutter et al., 2005). However, the chemical was also found in subjects who said that they never used perfumes or body lotion, and was present in 91% of blood samples tested. How did it get there?

Procter and Gamble stress the desirability (in their view) for “enduring perfume ingredients” which are “carried through the laundry process and thereafter released into the air around the dried fabrics.” (Procter and Gamble, 2005)

Yet in the same patent application, the company admits that these chemicals are pollutants when they enter the air during laundering. Do they suddenly stop being pollutants afterwards, when they are released from the fabric on the washing line or when the laundered clothes are being worn, to be inhaled by the general public?

Tests conducted between 1999 and 2001 found that artificial musks were even present in the air over Lake Michigan, USA (Peck and Hornbuckle, 2004).

Bizarrely it is legal to force other people, including young children, to breathe in unnecessary artificial chemicals. It is equally extraordinary that there has been scarcely any research into the safety of perfume chemicals when inhaled, when this route of exposure provides direct access to the brain as well as the rest of the body.

Musk ambrette - banned in 1995 - was still turning up in rainwater in Europe in 2003, and will probably continue to be found in years to come as, like so many of these chemicals, it does not biodegrade easily (Peters, 2003).

The right to unpolluted air and wholesome water is surely fundamental - not to be overridden or diluted by commercial considerations or by anyone’s perceived right to pollute.