Are scents for buses and buildings safe?

It was reported that Tower Transit would be rolling out 100 scented buses progressively over the month of March in an initiative to improve commuters' experience (No. 97: A new fragrance on wheels; ST Online, Feb 28).

Several malls and hotels also have their own signature scents.

But are such fragrances safe?

Many fragrances contain phthalates. The chemical is also found in personal care products, household cleaners, plastics and food.

However, there is emerging evidence of the negative health effects of phthalates.

According to a report in The Guardian, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, low IQ, and altered reproductive development, among other health issues.

The European Commission has banned the use of phthalates in toys and childcare articles since 2005.

Before we start introducing scents to more places in Singapore, perhaps more research needs to be done to ensure that we do not trade momentary pleasant experiences for long-term health risks.

Liu I-Chun (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Are scents for buses and buildings safe?'. Print Edition | Subscribe