By: Staff  Date: 01/12/2012 Category: | Research Reports |

Internet mailing lists frequented by dog owners recently reported that a Procter & Gamble cleaning product is dangerous to pets, but the company, the National Animal Poison Control Center, and the American Veterinary Medical Association said that the reports are false.

"Contrary to rumors being spread over the Internet, there is no substantiated evidence that the use of Febreze1 caused the death of any dogs or cats," wrote NAPCC vice president Steven R. Hansen DVM, MS. "In instances where a pet died and a necropsy was performed, an understandable cause of death was identified and Febreze was eliminated as the cause." In one case, the cause of death was complications from heartworm infestation, Hansen said.

Febreze is a fabric freshener. A water-based corn starch formula in a pump sprayer, it eliminates smells in fabrics by destroying odor molecules. Directions on the container say to spray the fabric until damp, then let dry. It is only intended for use on fabrics; it should not be sprayed directly on any pet, and pets should be kept away from sprayed fabrics until the product dries.

Since birds are more sensitive to airborne chemicals, it is wise to remove birds from the room whenever aerosol cleaners are used and to return them when the product has dried and the area has been ventilated, Hansen said.

An earlier formula of Febreze contained zinc chloride, a salt that - like many chemicals - can be toxic in large amounts but is considered safe in trace amounts. In its Internet fact sheet about Febreze, P&G said that it used less than one percent zinc chloride in the product formula and that the chemical is used in mouthwash and eyedrops and is approved for use in pet foods by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The latest version of Febreze uses a different agent to speed drying, P&G said. "Like all our products, Febreze and its ingredients were tested extensively to ensure that the product is safe for humans, pets, and the environment," the P&G fact sheet said. "This safety data was reviewed by more than 100 scientists, doctors, safety experts, and veterinarians, and all have come to the same conclusion: Febreze is safe."

Urban legends

The Internet helped spread the rumors about Febreze and the World Wide Web helped dispel them. Along with P&G, AVMA, and NAPCC, websites about urban legends 2 helped debunk the claims. Typical of most urban legends, the allegations that Febreze is dangerous are accompanied by vague assertions that pets have died or become seriously ill after coming in contact with the product. There have been no contact names, no medical records, and no research cited to give credence to the stories.

"There's a big difference between 'My pet died after I used Febreze' and 'My pet died because I used Febreze," said the report on the Urban Legends Reference Page by Barbara and David Mikkelson. "… Febreze has been widely available for many months now, and it has been used in various large test markets for several years prior to its general market introduction. Is it plausible that this product has been killing birds and dogs left and right and this is the first we've heard of it?"

More about NFWF

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a non-profit corporation established by the US Congress in 1984 to improve conservation efforts and promote sustainable use of natural resources.

The foundation goals are conservation education, natural resource management, habitat protection, ecosystem restoration, and public policy development through public/private partnerships.

The foundation receives some federal money, but it must match that money dollar for dollar with donations from its project partners, a requirement it has met or exceeded for 11 consecutive years. From 1986 until mid-1998, the federal government gave NFWF $100 million and the foundation added $200 million and awarded more than 2500 grants for conservation projects.

NFWF projects fall into six categories: education, fisheries conservation and management, migratory bird conservation, wetland and private lands, wildlife habitat, and conservation policy.


Not to be outdone by Exxon, Shell Oil Company has pledged $5 million to marine conservation in the Gulf of Mexico. Like the STF efforts, the Shell Marine Habitat Program will be administered by NFWF. The money will be spread over five years and will be used to fund Gulf Coast marine management research, habitat protection, and environmental education projects.


NFWF partners also include the US Golf Association, which donates $200,000 annually to the study of wildlife on the golf course.

More than 15,000 golf course provide more than 1.5 million acres of habitat. The projects funded since the program's inception in 1996 include a manual for golf course architects and managers to improve habitat for birds developed by the Colorado Bird Observatory; a handbook of wetlands habitat management for golf courses; an Audubon project to develop a database for wildlife habitat on golf courses; a Xerxes Society study to determine the potential for golf courses to become sanctuaries for butterflies and other insects; two university studies to test the effect of golf course management on amphibians; and a university study to determine the extent of runoff from golf course use of pesticides.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |
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