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Chemical Reaction: The New Toxicology

By: Steve Herman
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the August 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 4 of 4

The RIFM study did not evaluate human response to fragrance in the air, only the distribution of chemicals in the air following typical use. It is only the first step in a long process to model the respiratory consequences of fragrance. Intelligent experimental design and use of chemical models should produce valuable insight with limited hard data as this initiative proceeds. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has taken the list of chemicals used by RIFM in its test aerosol and exposed some of these chemicals to reactive species commonly present in indoor air.5 The hydroxy radical, ozone and nitrate radical were used. Starting with safe chemicals, the reactant products can be offensive or harmful. The study looked at both gas-phase and surface-phase reactions.

The science of safety and ethical considerations are moving forward to provide a healthy environment—using as many scientific and mathematical tools as possible. It is essential to embrace the process as a necessity for the world and a gift to future generations.


  1. AM Goldberg and T Hartung, Protecting More than Animals, Sci Amer, 294 (1) (2006)
  3. S Herman, Safety First, GCI (Feb 2002)
  4. D Isola et al., Simulated Inhalation Levels of Fragrance Materials in a Surrogate Air Freshener Formulation, Environ Sci Technol 39, 7810–7816 (2005)
  5. R Wells, Chemistry of Indoor Environments: Results and Future, presentation at RIFM (April 12, 2006)