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Febreze Toxic to Pets?

SUMMARY: Net rumor warns that the Procter & Gamble fabric deodorizer Febreze poses a health threat to pets.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: March 1999
Status: False

As circulated on the Internet, March 1999:

Febreze Is Dangerous to Pets

There have been multiple instances of dogs and birds who have died or became very ill after being exposed to Febreze, a deodorizer/air freshener. Febreze contains zinc chloride, which is very dangerous for animals.

Please do not use Febreze anywhere near your pets! If you have used it near your pets or on their bedding, clean the bedding/area thoroughly to remove the Febreze, and move the animals away from the area.

Please pass this information on to other pet owners/caretakers,before more animals are injured or killed, and find a safer method of odor control.

Febreze: This product is marketed as something that removes odors without covering them up. However, there is a strong smell to it, but worse than that, Febreze contains zinc chloride. Many birds have already been killed after this product was used in any proximity to them whatsoever, and some dogs have also died. Other dogs have become ill without dying. This product is marketed as safe around animals, and people have sprayed their dogs' bedding to remove the doggy smell, only to discover later on that their dog became deathly ill from it. There is one dog who lost most of her hair after being accidentally sprayed with some Febreze, though this particular incident also had a second factor involved (diet change).The Febreze bottle, as of December, 1998, has a picture on the back of a dog, which leads some people to believe it's safe to use in their bedding.

Comments: Febreze, a Procter & Gamble product not widely available in the U.S. until last year, is described by its manufacturer as a "one-step odor cleaning system [that] eliminates common odors such as pet, smoke, cooking, and musty smells."

The email warnings about its alleged toxic threat to pets began circulating in January. Note that this one refers to "multiple instances" of dogs and birds dying or becoming ill from exposure to the product, but cites no names, dates, or locations to permit verification of these incidents.

According to the pet safety FAQ page posted by Procter & Gamble in response to these rumors, research confirms that the product, used according to directions, poses no serious health threat to pets.

The ASPCA's National Animal Poison Control Center agrees. A staff veterinarian I spoke with said the Center has not been able to confirm any cases of Febreze causing the death or serious injury of pets. The Center issued the following statement:

Veterinary toxicologists at the ASPCA National Animal Poison Center are conducting an on-going investigation into claims that use of Febreze in the home caused the death of several pets. All information reviewed to date suggests that there is no evidence that Febreze represents any risk to pets when used according to label instructions. Presently, the center considers the product safe to use in households with pets. As with any cleaning product, the center recommends that birds be removed from the room until the product application has dried and the area has been ventilated.
— ASPCA/NAPCC Letter Regarding Febreze

The Animal Poison Control Center also told me that while zinc chloride (one of the ingredients in Febreze) can be toxic in large amounts, it comprises less than 1% of the formulation of the product and is not considered to be a hazard, contrary to allegations in the email warnings. Procter & Gamble says it began producing an improved Febreze formula in December 1998 which does not contain the chemical.

A statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association quotes Dr. Carl Hornfeldt, clinical director for the Hennepin Regional Poison Center in Minneapolis: "There's no truth in the concerns of this product being harmful." In addition, Dr. Steve Hansen of the NAPCC notes in the statement that the contents of Febreze are "much safer than some other household products, such as certain pesticides, disinfectants, antifreeze, and drain cleaners."

The Humane Society of the United States has posted a similar statement on its Website.

Around Birds, Take Special Care with ALL Household Cleaning Products

All sources, including the Animal Poison Control Center, agree that birds are extraordinarily sensitive to household chemicals and perfumes, and special care should be taken around them with all such products. The Parrot Parrot avian health page warns:

...most avian specialists would advise bird owners to avoid exposing their companion birds to any strong chemicals, particularly aerosolized chemicals, due to the delicate nature of their lungs. If you use any sprays or scented products it is advisable that you remove birds from the environment until the smell has completely subsided (at least 2-3 hours).

Two things to note: Febreze is not sold in the form of an aerosol spray - it's a water-based pump spray; and while there have been consumer reports of bird injury or death blamed on Febreze, none have so far been authenticated.

If you believe this product has caused injury to your pet, call the Febreze Customer Service Line at 1-800-308-EASY(3279) or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-800-345-4735.


ASPCA Febreze Update
Jan. 11, 2002 toxicology bulletin from the ASPCA: "Contrary to rumors being spread over the Internet, The ASPCA knows of no substantiated evidence that the use of Febreze has caused the death of any dogs or cats."

Last updated: Jan. 2002

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