Room fragrancing has been the subject of frequent and controversial media coverage. Unfortunately, the debate is often reduced to brief, inaccurate statements which on closer examination prove to be misinterpretations of extensive scientific evidence.
For example, multi-page statements issued by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) have been reduced to a few key words and sensationalised:
no distinction is made between different qualities of fragrance (natural essential oils versus synthetic fragrances) or between contact allergies (involving skin contact) and the allergy risk associated with fragrances absorbed through the respiratory system. The result is little factual information and all the more emotional uncertainty among customers and consumers.
However, the facts are these: If room fragrancing is used appropriately and professionally with highquality essential oils and adequate scent machines, there is no reason to fear allergic reactions. In February 2013, Forum Essenzia, the organisation representing the aromatherapy industry, published a detailed statement*) on this issue with an extensive list of sources.
The points made by Forum Essenzia are summarised here.
- Allergic reactions to fragrances usually result from contact allergies, where an allergen comes into contact with the skin. The allergenic substance must remain in contact with the skin in a high concentration and for a long period. This is not the case with professional room fragrance systems.
- Because these systems use very low concentrations, the essential oil molecules, due to their volatility, only stay in contact with the skin for a very short time. This means the risk of an allergic reaction is very low.
- There is no evidence that fragrances used in low concentrations “have caused allergic reactions when inhaled”.
- Essential oils are derived from plants. When they are absorbed into the body they are metabolised (broken down) very quickly.
*) From an ÖKOTEST comment on a competitor’s fragrancing project. Like PRIMAVERA PROAIR, this company uses highquality essential oils and scent machines, so the article attacks all those involved in professional aromatherapy and room fragrancing. (See ÖKOTEST 12/2012, page 114: “Unfug des Jahres: Ab zur Nachhilfe”)