Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.

Twenty Most Common Chemicals
Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products


Identification of Polar Volatile Organic Compounds in Consumer Products and
Common Microenvironments

Study by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1991*
Reference: Lance Wallace, EPA; Phone 703.648.4287

Symptoms of exposure are taken from industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
Compiled by Julia Kendall (1935 - 1997); distributed by EHN, 415.541.5075

Asthma rates climb
Julia's statistical information is now dated. For example, when I put her Twenty Most Common ... into one-page flyer format for her in the early 1990s, it referred to 10 million people living with asthma. But that number continued to soar, as it still does. The longer our government agencies choose to ignore those already disabled by these products, the more our numbers grow. According to CDC's FastStats, "Approximately 17.6 million adults (18 and over) were told that they had asthma (1997)." An October 2002 communication from ALA Calif. had it at over 24 million diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives.

Want to do something? Write to your representatives about legislation, and to the FDA. See SNIFF and FDA Citizens' Petition 99P-1340 -- barb

CNS = Central Nervous System -- YOUR brain and spine. CNS disorders include: Alzheimer's disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dementia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

CNS exposure symptoms include -- aphasia, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness, headaches, hunger, memory loss, numbness in face, pain in neck and spine.

Note, I do not have the MSDS from which Julia worked. I've built links to those I've found. (If you choose to use Aldrich MSDS, register first.) Another page that may prove interesting to you is: Noveon Kalama Products and their Uses. -- barb

ACETONE (cologne, dishwashing liquid and detergent, nail enamel remover) -- On EPA, RCRA, CERCLA Hazardous Waste lists. "Inhalation can cause dryness of the mouth and throat; dizziness, nausea, incoordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, and, in severe exposures, coma." "Acts primarily as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant." [ ACETONE (Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentrations (IDLHs) and Acetone: ATSDR Fact Sheet ]
BENZALDEHYDE (perfume, cologne, hairspray, laundry bleach, deodorants, detergent, vaseline lotion, shaving cream, shampoo, bar soap, dishwasher detergent) -- Narcotic. Sensitizer. "Local anesthetic, CNS depressant" ... "irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs, and GI tract causing nausea and abdominal pain." "May cause kidney damage." "Do not use with contact lenses."
BENZYL ACETATE (perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, dishwashing liquid and detergent, soap, hairspray, bleach, after shave, deodorants) -- Carcinogenic (linked to pancreatic cancer); "From vapors: irritating to eyes and respiratory passages, exciting cough." "In mice: hyperaemia of the lungs." "Can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects." "Do not flush to sewer."
[Additional info.]
BENZYL ALCOHOL (perfume, cologne, soap, shampoo, nail enamel remover, air freshener, laundry bleach and detergent, vaseline lotion, deodorants, fabric softener) -- "irritating to the upper respiratory tract" ... "headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, CNS depression, and death in severe cases due to respiratory failure."
[International Chemical Safety Cards]
CAMPHOR (perfume, shaving cream, nail enamel, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, nail color, stickup air freshener) -- "local irritant and CNS stimulant" ... "readily absorbed through body tissues" ... "irritation of eyes, nose and throat" ... "dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions" "Avoid inhalation of vapors."
[Camphor (synthetic) (IDLHs) ]
ETHANOL (perfume, hairspray, shampoo, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid and detergent, laundry detergent, shaving cream, soap, vaseline lotion, air fresheners, nail color and remover, paint and varnish remover) -- On EPA Hazardous Waste list; symptons:" ... fatigue; irritating to eyes and upper respiratory tract even in low concentrations..." "Inhalation of ethanol vapors can have effects similar to those characteristic of ingestion. These include an initial stimulatory effect followed by drowsiness, impaired vision, ataxia, stupor..." Causes CNS disorder. [How Ethanol is Made]
ETHYL ACETATE (after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) -- Narcotic. On EPA Hazardous Waste list; " ... irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract" ... "may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)" ... "defatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking" ... "may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys" "Wash thoroughly after handling." [ETHYL ACETATE (IDLHs)]
LIMONENE 1 (perfume, cologne, disinfectant spray, bar soap, shaving cream, deodorants, nail color and remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, after shave, bleach, paint and varnish remover) -- Carcinogenic. "Prevent its contact with skin or eyes because it is an irritant and sensitizer." "Always wash thoroughly after using this material and before eating, drinking, ...applying cosmetics. Do not inhale limonene vapor." [The limonene molecule (C10H16) exists in two forms that are mirror images of each other.   Ozone and Limonene in Indoor Air: A Source of Submicron Particle Exposure  More info. ]
LINALOOL (perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, solid deodorant) -- Narcotic ... "respiratory disturbances" . . . "Attracts bees." . . . "In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression . . . development of respiratory disturbances leading to death." . . . "depressed frog-heart activity." Causes CNS disorder.
METHYLENE CHLORIDE 2. (shampoo, cologne, paint and varnish remover) -- Banned by the FDA in 1988! No enforcement possible due to trade secret laws protecting chemical fragrance industry. On EPA, RCRA, CERCLA Hazardous Waste lists. "Carcinogenic" ... "Absorbed, stored in body fat, it metabolizes to carbon monoxide, reducing oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood." "Headache, giddiness, stupor, irritability, fatigue, tingling in the limbs." Causes CNS disorder.
[Methylene Chloride(IDLHs)]
a-PINENE (bar and liquid soap, cologne, perfume, shaving cream, deodorants, dishwashing liquid, air freshener) -- Sensitizer (damaging to the immune system).
g-TERPINENE (cologne, perfume, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, air freshener) -- "Causes asthma and CNS disorders."
a-TERPINEOL (perfume, cologne, laundry detergent, bleach powder, laundry bleach, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, vaseline lotion, cologne, soap, hairspray, after shave, roll-on deodorant) -- "... highly irritating to mucous membranes ..." "Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema." Can also cause "excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, and headache." "Prevent repeated or prolonged skin contact."

Note: Julia Kendall had been unable to secure MSDS for the following chemicals:


However, additional information is available through IMMUNE --


Note: Julia Kendall lived and worked with MCS and leukemia as a result of inadvertent Malathion spraying in southern California. She left us July 12, 1997, but her work lives on.

Just remember, that the statistics change -- ever climbing -- because people do not change their dependence upon superfluous toxins in such commonly used products around the home and workplace as synthetic fertilizers, fragrances and pesticides. Caveat Emptor! -- barb; 11/26/00


You'll want to know --
  • Ninety-five percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxics and sensitizers -- capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. "Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace," Report by the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986. (Report 99-827)

  • Chloroform was found in tests of fabric softeners: EPA's 1991 study.

  • A room containing an air freshener had high levels of p-dichlorobenzene (a carcinogen) and ethanol: EPA's 1991 study.

  • An FDA analysis (1968-1972) of 138 compounds used in cosmetics that most frequently involved adverse reactions, identified five chemicals (alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, limonene and linalool) that are among the 20 most commonly used in the 31 fragrance products tested by the EPA in 1991!

  • Thirty-three million Americans suffer from sinusitis (inflammation or infection of sinus passages). Note: Written in 1992. The figure in 1999 was 35 million -- see "Sinusitis Strikes Back" at -- barb

  • Ten million Americans have asthma. Asthma and asthma deaths have increased over 30 percent in the past 10 years. Note: Written in 1992. In August 2002, CDC's FastStats reports: "Approximately 17.6 million adults (18 and over) were told that they had asthma (1997)" October 2002: 24.7 million now have asthma, according to the ALA Calif. barb

  • Headaches cost $50 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses and 157 million lost work days in 1991. "Focus on Fragrance and Health," by Louise Kosta, The Human Ecologist, Fall 1992.

Note: Julia Kendall lived and worked with MCS and leukemia as a result of inadvertent Malathion spraying in southern California. She left us July 12, 1997, but her work lives on. Just remember, that the statistics change -- ever climbing -- because people do not change their dependence upon superfluous toxins in such commonly used products around the home and workplace as synthetic fertilizers, fragrances and pesticides. Caveat Emptor! -- barb


*  Identification of Polar Volatile Organic Compounds in Consumer Products and Common Microenvironments, Lance Wallace, U.S. EPA, Warrenton VA; William C. Nelson, US EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC; Edo Pellizzari, James H. Raymer, Kent W. Thomas, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC; March 1991. Paper #A312 to be submitted for presentation at the 1991 Annual Meeting of the AWMA. (EPA/600/D-91/074). Thanks to Jacki . . .


Twenty Most Common Chemicals . . . and Some of Their Effects, a graphic
Feel free to print out and use. -- barb



Additional information from WHO -- barb


Concise International Chemical Assessment Document, No. 5
1998, iv + 32 pages [E, with summaries in F, S]
ISBN 92 4 153005 7 13.-/US $11.70; in developing countries: 9.10
Order no. 1380005

A concise assessment of the risks to human health posed by exposure to limonene, a chemical released to the atmosphere in large amounts from certain trees and bushes as well as from anthropogenic sources. In industry, limonene is used as a solvent in degreasing metals prior to industrial painting, for cleaning in the electronic and printing industries, and as a solvent in paint. The compound is also used as a flavour and fragrance additive in food, household cleaning products, and perfumes.

The document is part of a new series of brief reports aimed at the characterization of hazards and dose-response for exposures to selected industrial chemicals. With this goal in mind, documents focus on studies and findings considered critical for risk characterization.

In experimental animals exposed to limonene, the liver is the principal target organ; exposure affects the amount and activity of different liver enzymes, liver weight, cholesterol levels, and bile flow. Studies indicate that limonene is not genotoxic and has no teratogenic or embryotoxic potential. No case reports or epidemiological studies were available for the evaluation of health effects in humans.

For the general population, food is identified the principal source of exposure. The report established a guidance value for the ingestion of limonene of 0.1 mg/kg body weight per day. The report further concluded that, at current estimated levels of intake, limonene in food does not represent a significant risk to human health.



Methylene Chloride
Second edition

Environmental Health Criteria, No. 164
1996, 242 pages [E, with summaries in F, S]
ISBN 92 4 157164 0 46.-/US $41.40; in developing countries: 32.20
Order no. 1160164

Evaluates the risks to human health and the environment posed by exposure to methylene chloride. Due to its volatility, stability, and properties as a solvent, methylene chloride is widely used in aerosols, paint removers, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, polyurethane foam manufacturing, and metal cleaning. Virtually all atmospheric release of this chemical result from its use as an end-product by various industries, combined with the use of paint removers and aerosol products at home. The general public is exposed to methylene chloride primarily through the use of consumer products, such as paint removers, which can result in relatively high indoor levels.

The most extensive sections evaluate the toxicity of methylene chloride in experimental animals and humans, giving particular attention to studies indicating carcinogenic potential in some species. Studies indicate that methylene chloride is rapidly absorbed through the lung and gastrointestinal tract, is distributed throughout the body, and rapidly excreted via the lungs. The main toxic effects in exposed humans are reversible central nervous system depression and carboxyhaemaglobin formation. Studies have also reported liver and renal dysfunctions, haematological effects, and neurophysiological and neurobehavioural disturbances. Although several studies have investigated the link between human exposure to methylene chloride and cardiovascular disease and cancer, the report cites several inadequacies in these studies and concludes that no firm link with either cardiovascular disease or cancer can be made.

Concerning risks to the environment, the report concludes that, with the exception of accidental spills, use of methylene chloride has no significant impact on the environment.

EHN has a section on MSDS at

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Feel free to copy and post, just please credit Julia Kendall.

Return to The Work of Julia Kendall

Flyer: Perfume bottle . . . with symptoms coming out as "spray"
Twenty Most Common Chemicals . . . and Some of Their Effects
Feel free to use this graphic -- set printer to "landscape" and print
page 1 through page 1; it should work. (Design idea by barb, blessed by Julia.)

Other flyers by Julia Kendall:

Fabric Softeners = Health Risks From Dryer Exhaust and Treated Fabrics

Making Sense of Scents

Complementary information in roughly chronological order:


  1. Julia's 'Twenty Most ..." has been in circulation as one-page flyers
    since I first worked with her in 1992. Please keep that in mind as you
    read Julia's low numbers for asthma.


  2. FDA Petition 99P-1340 - May 1999
    (with analyses and FDA contact information)
    Still open and accepting letters, notes and/or documentation


  3. "FDA has little or no information that would support actions to raise public
    awareness of possible health risks associated with the use of fragranced products."

    (FDA/Website Management Staff; Web page updated by clb 1999-JUL-16.
    Note: still present 03/27/03. bw)


  4. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
    Has recognized fragrance products and pesticides as
    Common Indoor Air Pollutants


  5. Perfume: Cupid's Arrow or Poison Dart?, Feb. 7, 2000
    Joint press release: Dr. Samuel Epstein's Cancer Prevention Coalition and EHN


  6. Perfumers World and their "Materials Used In Perfumery"
    Date unknown


  7. John Bailey PhD, the former head of FDA's cosmetics branch,
    is now with the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA),
    having joined them January 2002.


  8. Scents and sensitivities
    What to know before buying a ValentineĀ¼s Day perfume

    By Francesca Lyman; Feb. 6, 2002; MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR


  9. Not Too Pretty
    July 10, 2002
    A report on phthalates, a commonly used fragrance chemical,
    but not the only one that poses risks. -- barb


  10. What the nose knows
    Think twice before buying a loved one perfume, cologne

    By Francesca Lyman; MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR; Feb. 12, 2003



Also visit the work of Betty Bridges, RN

Or visit Betty's site directly: Fragranced Products Information Network

"Fragrance: Emerging Health and Environmental Concerns"
By Betty Bridges, RN


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