Here’s some not-so-light but pretty important reading to take a gander at this weekend especially if you’re prone to buying cleaning and laundry products with “Zesty Citrus Burst” or “Luscious Fresh Linen” scents:

Yesterday Women’s Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based NGO perhaps best known for advocating green cleaning parties, released the first-ever report detailing the adverse health effects of the unregulated (and frequently undisclosed) "secret" chemicals — namely phthalates and synthetic musks — that give many fragranced cleaning products that oh-so-delightful and possibly detrimental scent.

Again, the report, called "What's That Smell?" (download the PDF here) doesn't make for the most leisurely weekend reading (unless you're big into air fresheners and respiratory illnesses) but it is quite topical given that two hugely important pieces of legislation that could drastically change the way we buy household products are appearing before Congress this month: the Sen. Al Franken-introduced Household Product Labeling Act and Sen. Frank Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act 2010.

Said Franken in a release published yesterday:
There's no reason to be putting the health of American consumers at risk because of a legal loophole. We need to update our laws so that moms and dads can get the information they need to make choices about what they bring into their homes. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would require full labeling on the products for cleaners—much like what we have for food and drugs. It’s just common sense.”
If you're already convinced that the undisclosed chemicals in fragranced cleaning products are indeed bad for your health and would rather skip over the gory details and scientific studies that make up a large part of "What's That Smell?" there's also a helpful appendix that lists ways you can reduce or completely eliminate fragranced products in your home. And, not shockingly, the substitutes recommended include the holy trinity of baking soda, vinegar, and borax

Take a look at "What's That Smell?" and let me know what you think in the comments section. Have you already made the switch to "fragrance-free" products? (By the way, as the report helpfully points out, "fragrance-free" is actually different than and preferable to "unscented" as the latter can actually contain a fragrance used to mask a chemical smell). If you haven't already ditched that Apple Spice air freshener and Country Meadows laundry softener, do you plan to after reading this report?

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Raising a stink over fragranced products
A new report from Women's Voices for the Earth titled 'What's That Smell?' details the dangers lurking in synthetically fragranced cleaning products.