SCENT RESEARCH: Sample Abstracts from Research Articles Relevant to the Perfume Issue

SCENT RESEARCH: Sample Abstracts from Research Articles Relevant to the Perfume Issue


1 – Lorig TS, EEG and ERP studies of low-level odor exposure in normal subjects.

Toxicology and Industrial Health, July-Oct. 1994, vol 10, No.4/5, 579-586.

“Evidence from four EEG/ERP experiments is presented. Findings of these experiments consistently demonstrate the ability of low-level and undetected odors to alter neurophysiology. Behavioral and cognitive effects are also described. These data may have applicability to theories of MCS since they illustrate the possibility that low-level or undetected odors affect central nervous system activity and may precipitate or cue MCS symptoms.” (Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 24450 USA.)

2 – Lorig TS. et al., The effects of low concentration odors on EEG activity and behavior.

Journal of Psychophysiology, 5, 1991, 69-97.

“Previous research has suggested that low concentration odors affect even when undetected by subjects. The present investigations were conducted to replicate this finding and to determine the behavioral effects of low concentration odor administration. In experiment 1, EEG data were collected while subjects were exposed to varying levels of galaxolide, a synthetic musk-like odor. Results indicated significant differences in alpha activity between the undetected odor and no odor control conditions. Additionally, presence of the undetected odor doubled the time necessary to solve a visual search task. In experiment 2, varying levels of galaxolide were administered while ERP data were collected in an auditory odd-ball task. Amplitude of the P200, P300 component of the ERP increased as a function of odor administration. P200 was found to change during administration of the undetected condition suggesting that odors may be distracting or produce divided attention even when undetected.”

3 – Morrow Lisa A., et. al., Alterations in Cognitive and Psychological Functioning after Organic Solvent Exposure.

Journal of Occupational Medicine. Vol. 32, No.5. p.444-450, May, 1990 “Exposure to organic solvents has been linked repeatedly to alterations in both personality and cognitive functioning. To assess the nature and extent of these changes more thoroughly, 32 workers with a history of exposure to mixtures of organic solvents and 32 age and education-matched blue collar workers with no history of exposure were assessed with a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests. Although both groups were comparable on measures of general intelligence, significant differences were found in virtually all other cognitive domains tested (Learning and Memory, Visuospacial, Attention and Mental Flexibility, Psychomotor Speed). In addition, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventories of exposed workers indicated clinically significant levels of depression, anxiety, somatic concerns and disturbances in thinking. The reported psychological distress was unrelated to degree of cognitive deficit. Finally, several exposure-related variables were associated with poorer performance on tests of memory and visuospacial ability.”

4 – Molhave L., et. al., Human Reactions to Low Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds. Environment International Vol. 12, 167-175. 1986,

“A group of 62 human subjects were exposed for 2.75 hours to a mixture of 22 volatile Organic Compounds known to be indoor air pollutants. Three total concentrations of 0, 5, and 25 mg/m3 of the same 22 compounds were used. The subjects were all healthy and without asthma, allergy, or chronic bronchitis but claimed often to suffer from dry mucous membranes in eyes, nose, or upper airways. By using a questionnaire on 26 different air quality aspects, a significant effect of exposure was found for questions related to general air quality, odour, ability to concentrate, and/or mucous membrane irritation. Continuous evaluation of irritation in eyes, nose, and throat showed significant correlation to exposure both at 5 and 25 mg/m3. The effect was acute and showed no signs of adaptation. A digit span performance test showed decreased scores during exposure.”

5 – Millqvist E, Lowhagen O, Placebo-controlled challenges with perfume in patients with asthma-like symptoms. Allergy, 1996, June;51(6):434-439.

“A group of nine patients with respiratory symptoms after nonspecific irritating stimuli, but without any IgE-mediated allergy or demonstratable bronchial obstruction, were referred to the asthma/allergy outpatient department for evaluation of suspected asthma. In order to find a provocation model and objectively assess these patients’ symptoms in controlled studies, provocation with perfume or placebo was performed. The same patients were also subjected to perfume provocation with or without a carbon filter mask to ascertain whether breathing through a filter with active carbon could prevent the symptoms. The patients breathed through the mouth during the provocations, as they used a nasal clamp to prevent any smell of perfume. We found that the patient’s earlier symptoms could be verified by perfume provocation. The conclusion is that symptoms suggesting hyperactivity of the respiratory tract and asthma can be provoked by perfume without the presence of bronchial obstruction, and that using a carbon filter mask has no preventive effect. The symptoms are not transmitted via the olfactory nerve, since the patients could not smell the perfume, but they may have been induced by a trigeminal reflex via the respiratory tract or by the eyes.”

6  – Jensen OC, Petersen I, Occupational Asthma caused by scented gravel in cat litter (article in Danish) Ugeskr Laeger, 1991, Mar 25:153(13):939-940.

“Perfumes are now added to articles in everyday use to an increasing extent. One example of this is addition of perfume to gravel in cat toilets. It is recognized that perfumes may cause toxic and allergic skin reactions while perfume as the cause of asthma is not so well recognized. In the case described here, exposure to industrial perfume resulted in asthma on account of irritation.”

7 – Schlueter DP, et. al., Airway response to hair spray in normal subjects and subjects with hyperactive airways. Chest. 1979, May; 75(5):544-548.

“Short-term 20-second exposure to hair sprays A and B failed to show significant decreases in maximum expiratory flow rates at low pulmonary volumes in normal subjects; however, significant decreases were observed with hairspray B in eight subjects with hyperactive airways (abnormal response to inhalation of methacholine). On the partial flow-volume curves, flows at 40 percent and 25 percent of forced vital capacity decreased 8.9 percent to 10.3 percent and 14 to 18.7 percent, respectively. The hair sprays differed in their content of perfume and plasticizer, and since the latter is generally considered nontoxic at room temperature, the perfume may be the responsible agent. It would appear from this study that normal healthy individuals are at little risk, at least from brief exposure to hair spray; however, in presence of hyperactive airways, as seen in asthmatic subjects and in some people with allergic rhinitis and viral respiratory infections, an immediate response of the airways may result from exposure to some hairsprays.”

8 – Kumar P, Inhalation challenge effects of perfume scent strips in patients with asthma. Ann. Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1995, Nov;75(5):429-433.

“BACKGROUND: Perfume- and cologne-scented advertisement strips are widely used. There are, however, very few data on the adverse effects of perfume inhalation in asthmatic subjects. OBJECTIVES: This study was undertaken to determine whether perfume inhalation from magazine scent strips could exacerbate asthma. METHODS: Twenty-nine asthmatic adults and 13 normal subjects were included in the study. Histories were obtained and physical examinations performed. Asthma severity was determined by clinical criteria of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Skin prick tests with common inhalant allergens and with the perfume under investigation were also performed. Four bronchial inhalation challenges were performed on each subject using commercial perfume scented strips, filter paper impregnated with perfume identical to that of the commercial strips, 70% isopropyl alcohol, and normal saline, respectively. Symptoms and signs were recorded before and after challenges. Pulmonary function studies were performed before and at 10, 20, and 30 minutes after challenges. RESULTS: Inhalation challenges using perfume produced significant declines in FEV1 in asthmatic patients when compared with control subjects. No significant change in FEV1 was noted after saline (placebo) challenge in asthmatic patients. The percent decline in FEV1 was significantly greater after challenge in severely asthmatic patients as compared with those with mild asthma. Chest tightness and wheezing occurred in 20.7% of asthmatic patients after perfume challenges. Asthmatic ascerbations after perfume challenge occurred in 36%, 17%, and 8% of the patients with severe, moderate, and mild asthma, respectively. Patients with atopic asthma had greater decreases in FEV1 after perfume challenge when compared with patients with nonallergic asthma.
CONCLUSIONS: Perfume-scented strips in magazines can cause exacerbations of symptoms and airway obstruction in asthmatic patients. Severe and atopic asthma increases risk of adverse respiratory reactions to perfumes.

9 – Students Mental Performance Shows Correlation with IAQ Factors. reported by the Cutter Corporation, newsletter, 1997. excerpts:

“Many people claim that poor IAQ can affect productivity in an office environment…. Even less is known about the effect that poor IAQ can have on schoolchildren, although it seems logical to assume that they are subject to the same factors and react similarly, if not more acutely, to degradation in the indoor environment. Swedish researchers studied some secondary school buildings and then correlated their findings with reports from students on what they felt their mental performance was. The researchers studied between two and three classrooms in each of the schools, for a total of 28. After controlling for significant personal factors, researchers found that the perception of impaired mental performance correlated with building condition.”

10 – Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) Scan of MCS Patient’s Brain Before and After Challenge with Perfume Inhalation. Conducted by. I. Mena, MD , Director, Division of Nuclear Medicine, UCLA, Torrance, California. December, 1993.

“In conclusion, findings suggest: 1)Diminished cerebral blood flow. 2)Bilateral frontal, temporal and parietal hypoperfusion. 3)Marked scalloping pattern of perfusion in frontal and parietal lobes. 4)Vasculitis vs. exposure to neurotoxic substances.”