“I think that the Air Care Summit was a very valuable way to bring researchers in olfaction and breathing science and medicine together with industry leaders so as to understand what the validated science is in relation to how these ideas are perceived by the general public,” said Rachel Herz, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, and a world-renowned expert on the psychology of smell.
“I know that there are challenges in educating the public to dissuade misperceptions and fears, but I believe that the more the science can be meaningfully and simply disseminated these challenges will be overcome, and that the best time to start is now. I also personally learned a great deal from my fellow presenters and am very glad that I was able to participate,” said Herz.
Trust in consumer products, including air fresheners, has diminished, noted HCPA. The growing skepticism is fueled by an increase in social sharing and access to multiple, and often times unsubstantiated, sources of information and assumptions not backed by sound science and research. The Summit sought to strengthen understanding of what consumers expect from brands, foster discussion of the benefits of air care products and illustrate ways diverse stakeholders can work effectively to educate consumers, workers and the media. Bringing together trusted scientific experts, third-party voices and diverse opinions, the Summit fostered a robust debate on the available or needed scientific resources that will resonate with the public, and build trust in air care products as safe and beneficial solutions for eliminating odors, freshening the air, and imparting a sense of wellbeing.
“The chief irony here is that air care products have been designed to counteract the chemical malodors in our indoor and outdoor environments, and yet, by a combination of unfortunate circumstances, these same products are criticized by some segments because they are created using chemicals that are erroneously seen as ‘bad,’” said William Troy, PhD, Toxassociates, Inc., and aspeaker at the HCPA Air Care Summit.
“We must educate the consumer that ‘chemical’ does not equal ‘bad;’ and remind them that our bodies—and our universe—are composed of chemicals,” continued Troy.
“Consumer products formulated with individual, well-identified chemical entities can have real benefits over products that are mixtures of only naturally-derived product ingredients that invariably have unknown elements in their composition. Chemical ingredients that are man-made and do not exist in nature are highly effective—and safe—when used in air care products.”
HCPA executives maintain their organization is the ideal conduit to connect industry and consumers through sound science.
“As stewards of the household and commercial products that help consumers and workers to lead cleaner, healthier and more productive lives, HCPA and its members will continue to proactively conduct and share credible science, as well as correct misinformation related to household and commercial products and their ingredients,” said Steve Caldeira, president and chief executive officer. “This is the first time we have brought together medical, scientific and industry experts to consider the years of research in such a transparent setting.”
Diverse Group of Experts
In this first-of-its-kind Summit, the SAP heard from multidisciplinary experts who presented peer reviewed research that supports the benefits of fragrance and malodor removal and the ability of air care products to improve the quality of life for consumers and workers.
“Smell is one of the most powerful senses a person has. Years of research have shown fragrance can positively impact mood and behavior. Malodor, on the other hand, drives a number of negative outcomes, both emotional and physical. Air care products, with their ability to remove malodor and replace it with fragrance, help people retain a better quality of life,” said SAP member Pamela Dalton, PhD, MPH, Monell Chemical Senses Center.
“Now more than ever, consumers are being bombarded with unsubstantiated claims that their safe and trusted household products are somehow harmful to their health,” said Beth Ludwick, vice president of communications and marketing for HCPA. “This has generated confusion and debate over safety, ingredients, transparency and other science-based topics connected to the air care category.”
According to Ludwick, the HCPA Air Care Division is working collaboratively to understand what communications tools are needed to most effectively correct misinformation, both from a scientific and consumer standpoint.
“The Summit was able to bring together such a diverse and respected group of experts because we all share the same goal: helping consumers make informed decisions about the air care products they use every day,” said Ludwick.
No Link to Asthma
SAP members also reviewed safety data related to Air Care products and ingredients. Based on the body of science, the SAP concluded that there are multiple areas where misinformation should be addressed with more factual information. As an example, while consumer product companies take care to develop products that are both effective and safe for consumers and workers when used as directed, there is a pervasive perception that these products cause asthma. Experts in the field disagree.
“A link between development of asthma and exposure to air fresheners cannot be established based on current studies,” said SAP member Mark J. Utell, MD, University of Rochester Medical Center, pulmonary disease and critical care. “Available data simply lacks the necessary product specificity to establish causation or an association and bears further investigation. I applaud the Task Force for collaborating to discuss future research directions in this important area.”
The HCPA Air Care Summit brought together scientists and medical experts from Monell Institute for Chemical Senses, the University of Rochester, Brown University, the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the University of Minnesota.
Companies that underwrote and planned the Summit included The Procter & Gamble Company, Arylessence, Inc., Symrise, Inc., Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc., The Clorox Company, Mast Global/L Brands, Inc., Givaudan Fragrance Corp., SC Johnson and Reckitt Benckiser.
Executives from related associations were impressed with the caliber of the Summit and its findings.
“I applaud Steve Caldeira and his team for HCPA’s leadership on air care,” said Farah K. Ahmed, president and chief executive officer, Fragrance Creators Association. “The Summit was a strong step in moving the category forward. As fragrance is a key component of air care products, I was thrilled to be a part of Summit as both a speaker and attendee. The wide range of speakers—physicians, researchers, chemists, science communicators—provided valuable takeaways and perspectives and I was encouraged by the level of openness and engagement among attendees. It is only by coming together to discuss common challenges and share solutions that we will find a sustainable path forward. The Summit was a major success and I anticipate even more positive developments and advancements in the months to come.”
The Summit and SAP discussion proceedings will be published to help disseminate the scientific information. Additionally, the SAP will help identify future opportunities for information sharing and research relating to the safety and benefits of Air Care products.
More than 60 people attended the Summit, and HCPA executives expect to hold another Summit in 2019. The HCPA Air Care Division is currently working to publish the meeting proceedings, author proactive editorials and will be showcasing findings from the Summit and next steps at the HCPA Annual Meeting in December.