The study, by the University of Melbourne, found that one in three Australians report adverse health effects from fragranced products, including breathing problems, migraine headaches, skin irritation and asthma attacks.
The lead author Professor Anne Steinemann, a world expert on environmental pollutants, air quality, and health effects, says the findings echo those of an American study she published last year and a yet-to-be published British study she has just completed.
Although Steinemann explains that it is not only fragrance chemicals that can be potentially toxic, her previous research has found that "the fragrance products emit a range of hazardous air pollutants" including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
"There's something about these fragrance chemicals. It doesn't matter whether the product is called 'green', 'organic', 'natural' or with 'essential oils', basically if it has a fragrance it can cause health problems," she said. "When I've analysed these fragranced products called 'green', 'organic', 'all-natural', there's little difference in the hazardous chemicals they emit compared to regular versions."
Steinemann adds that no law requires the disclosure of all the chemicals in a fragrance or a consumer product.
"You may see a few chemicals listed on the label, but those are typically less than 10 per cent of all chemicals," she said. "Also, these fragrance chemicals are typically mixtures of several dozen to several hundred chemicals, primarily synthetic and even so-called 'natural' fragrances can have synthetic chemicals in them.
"We have very little information on the toxicity of these mixtures - there's a focus on individual chemicals. Also very little information on the toxicity of a natural versus synthetic version of a chemical."
Steinemann is currently conducting research to try and understand why fragrance chemicals may be causing adverse health effects.