A recent paper from researchers at the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology proposes that perfume and cosmetics may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which reportedly affect one out of 88 children. Omar Bagasra, et al., “Role of Perfumes in Pathogenesis of Autism,” Medical Hypotheses, June 2013. Claiming that “there is little irrefutable evidence that pesticides, water born chemicals, or food preservatives play critical roles in inducing the genetic mutations associated with known intellectual deficiencies that have been linked to [ASD],” the authors assert that autism is not an inherited disease as commonly believed, but is caused by the “highly mutagenic, neurotoxic, and neuromodulatory chemicals” found in perfumes and cosmetics. They also claim that the reason why perfumes and chemicals purportedly contain such chemicals is because of a “giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973,” which evidently exempts fragrance producers from having to disclose perfume ingredients on product labels.

The researchers reportedly studied 17 name-brand products containing 38 different unidentified chemicals, including many that are known carcinogens and mutagens that can cause damage during human fetal brain development.

Meanwhile, critics of the paper, including the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA ), claim that it lacks credibility and that the data do not support the authors’ hypothesis that chemicals in perfumes are mutagenic or that they can be linked to ASD. “It is a legal requirement that each cosmetic product must undergo a robust safety assessment before it is placed on the market,” Emma Meredith, head of scientific and technical services at CTPA reportedly said. “If a substance is not safe it is banned from use in cosmetic products—and this would most certainly include any substance classified as ‘highly mutagenic.’” See EmaxHealth.com, August 4, 2013; Cosmeticsdesigneurope.com, August 9, 2013.