Beware of Diffusers and Sprays of Essential Oils, warns ANSES

The National Health Security Agency (ANSES) calls for vigilance regarding diffusers of essential oils. (© Patryssia / AdobeStock)

Irritation of the throat, nose or eyes, breathing difficulties … The national health security agency (ANSES) warns against the use of these everyday products.

Products known to purify the air and purify our interiors, essential oil diffusers have gradually made their way to us. But they must be used with care so as not to become real poisons.

This is the message that the National Health Security Agency (ANSES) wanted to pass, in a notice published this Tuesday 28th April 2020 based on a survey carried out among the more than 1,400 poisoning cases recorded between 2011 and the end of 2019 in poison control centres following the use of essential oil diffusers.

If most of these poisonings result from accidental exposure, in particular, the ingestion of oils by children, ANSES thus notes the presence of undesirable effects, such as irritation of the eyes, throat and nose, but also respiratory discomfort.

Certain components unsuitable for distribution

For ANSES, these respiratory irritations and difficulties may arise from the presence of certain components such as phenols or cetanes in certain oils used and “unsuitable for inhalation” or for diffusion “by means of a spray or of a diffuser ”.

But these symptoms remain “mostly mild and regress quickly after cessation of exposure,” said the national institution.

In addition, diffusers emit various volatile organic compounds (called VOCs) into the air which, “even if they are of natural origin, may have irritant or sensitizing properties”. And become a new source of pollution in our homes, alongside VOCs from household products, our furniture and even cosmetic products.

Ventilate your interior well and out of reach of children

ANSES nevertheless specifies that there is a lack of scientific data to draw conclusions on the health consequences of diffusers. But there are simple gestures to limit the damage.

First of all, recommends ANSES, it is essential to keep the diffusers out of the reach of the youngest to avoid any domestic accident, our cherubim being likely to wear in the mouth and to ingest these products.

The use of diffusers is also not recommended for people suffering from respiratory problems, as well as pregnant or lactating women, “because of the irritating substances potentially emitted by these products”.

After limiting the presence of these potential sources of pollution, care must also be taken to ventilate confined spaces to prevent the risks arising from poor indoor air quality

Better report poisoning

After these precautions are taken for our interiors, it is the turn of the public authorities to “better inform” about the precautions for the use of sprays and diffusers.

Health professionals are also invited to report cases of people with symptoms. Objective: better identify the undesirable effects of these products and improve monitoring of these people.

“For this, it is important that doctors report these cases to poison control centers or via the portal for reporting adverse health events.”

It is not the first time that the use of essential oils has been pointed out. In 2018, the association 60 Million consumers had thus looked into the presence of some  23 toxic substances in air fresheners with essential oils, which prove dangerous when inhaled or brought into contact with the skin.

A reporting platform
In March 2017, the Ministry of Health and the Digital Health Agency launched a platform to collect any reports from “patients, consumers, users or health professionals” concerning an unusual adverse event or effects on health.
Any recorded report is then analyzed by competent professionals: “regional health agencies, regional centres of expertise or national health agencies”, lists the Digital Health Agency. It can then lead to recommendations, an investigation, restrictions on the use or even a withdrawal of the product.
You can access this platform by clicking here.


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