Breathease, allergy friendliness, and undisclosed ingredients

Breathease is a range of household cleaning products which appear to have launched a few years ago, but which only came to my attention in 2016, thanks to a PR drive.

They describe themselves as “asthma and allergy friendly” and hold an accreditation from the charity Asthma UK, displaying its logo on the back of products.

They also carry a prominent front-of-pack Asthma & Allergy Friendly(TM) logo, which is an accreditation from Allergy Standards Ltd.

They say their products are “formulated with significantly less allergens than anything else available on the market” and that “the breathease range of cleaners will deliver effective cleaning whilst caring for your sensitivities.”

They’re received positive reviews from some allergy bloggers – example here – and I can see why. The two products I tested – the Multi-Purpose and the Kitchen Cleaners – worked perfectly well. The fragrance is vaguely floral, but not strongly so. Possibly honeysuckle. It was pleasant and inoffensive. There is also a bathroom cleaner and a window & glass cleaner. All products’ RRP is £4.99.

I have two issues with the products. Of most concern is scant information on ingredients: non-ionic surfactants, perfume, didecyldimonium chloride were declared, prefixed with “contains amongst other ingredients”. I was told “we don’t disclose full ingredients lists” but I could check with the publicist whether the products contained any particular ingredients I wanted to avoid, and be told whether or not those ingredients were used. I run a website dedicated to allergy to methylisothiazolinone (MI) – a preservative which causes extreme contact dermatitis in sensitised individuals – where I’d originally planned to run this article, so asked about that, and was told that it was free of MI and its close relatives.

I also presume that the perfume compounds used are not among the top 26 declarable fragrance allergens considered the most potent, and which always must be declared in cosmetics (albeit not in household cleaners) – but cannot be sure.

My second objection is to the claim that each product “helps prevent inhalant & allergenic reactions” – made on front of pack. I’m unclear on what basis this claim is made. If a product is low-allergen, then it could be argued it doesn’t contribute to raised risk of allergic reactions, but then, the same argument could be made for water. A claim to ‘prevent’ is something quite different. Perhaps the claim is made on the basis that the cleaners help dispose of environmental allergens, but I fail to see how these products are any different to other detergents in that regard.

But it is the absence of ingredient declaration which I struggle with. Should any product claiming allergy friendliness hold its ingredients so close to its chest? No – I don’t think so, and I’m doubly concerned that a major allergy charity and certification body haven’t stipulated greater transparency prior to granting their endorsements.

Products are currently available only in the UK through Breathease direct, at selected branches of Tesco stores, and some pharmacy chains.

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