Dr Emma Meredith, head of scientific and technical services at CTPA, said that the organization was:“disappointed in the lack of scientific rigour applied and that many of the bold claims made in the paper…are not backed up by scientific references.”
The paper was titled 'Role of perfumes in pathogenesis of autism' and was published in the June 2013 edition of the journal Medical Hypotheses.
It claimed that rather than being an inherited disease, autism was caused by the “mutagenic, neurotoxic, and neuromodulatory” effects of perfume on children.
Autism from a fragrance?
The five authors of the paper hypothesise that exposure to perfumes could affect the development of the olfactory bulb and leave the child with damaged neuronal pathways, leading to developmental problems in later life.
They claim that perfumes can contain dangerous chemicals because of a “giant loophole” in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which exempts fragrance manufacturers from having to disclose cosmetics ingredients on packaging.
Dr Meredith says that, to the contrary, the researchers' data does not support their own conclusions and the CTPA “totally refute” the claim that chemicals in perfumes are mutagenic or that they can cause developmental harm to children.
Holes in the study
The scientific head pointed out:“It is a legal requirement that each cosmetic product must undergo a robust safety assessment before it is placed on the market.”
"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’."
"The paper also makes very general claims about hormones and hormone-like substances being used in perfumes. Again this is not the case. Hormones – such as oestrogens and testosterones – are banned from use in cosmetics," she added.
The expert also pointed to the fact that the data obtained did not match the conclusions of other scientists.
A controversial hypothesis
Medical Hypotheses was founded in 1975 as an alternative to publications which used the peer review system: instead, articles were approved and disapproved by a single editor.
The journal’s mission statement is described as:“to publish interesting and important theoretical papers that foster the diversity and debate upon which the scientific process thrive.”
The journal met with controversy in 2009, when it published two papers which argued against a link between HIV and AIDS and claimed that anti-retroviral drugs were not effective in treating the disease.
Following the uproar in the medical community, Medical Hypotheses fired its previous editor and began submitting articles to external scientific review.