Scents and Sensitivity

By Alice Marson

Everyone likes to smell good, but smelling good should not be injurious to your health or the health of others.

Many perfumes and fragrance ingredients are derived and produced by chemical synthesis of petroleum and contain hazardous chemicals that present potential health risks.

It’s smart to keep in mind that anything you put on your skin or inhale is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Some of the chemicals used in fragrances can trigger allergic reactions resulting in headaches, wheezing, vomiting, reduced pulmonary function, asthma, lung irritation and contact dermatitis.

Other serious potential health risks include hormone disruption, sperm damage, thyroid effects, and endocrine problems.

Not listed on labels

While some of the toxic chemicals found in perfumes are also found in cigarette smoke and gasoline, perfume ingredients, like those used in toxic cleaning products, are not required by the federal Food and Drug Administration to be listed on the label.

Three of the most common chemicals found in perfumes are benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, and ethanol.

Lab tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group, found 91 different chemicals in 17 products. Some of the popular products in the study included Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity, Britney Spears Curious, Calvin Klein Eternity for Men, Halle by Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow. These products, just a few of the many, are not condemned by the FDA, but contain harmful chemicals on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. They are being sold and used by the general public every day.

Keep in mind that anything you put on your skin or inhale is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Another health concern is the quality of indoor air. Numerous reports have described the “sick building syndrome” associated with the air quality in public buildings. The contamination of indoor air can be not only from perfumes, but also from a variety of sources, including construction materials, fabrics, furnishings, maintenance supplies, adhesives, paint, caulks, paper, and cleaning products.

Steve Ganss, co-owner of Toledo Duct Clean, said people who call his business are often having respiratory problems. “Dust, mold and allergens build up in the ducts over time, whether it’s a residential building or a business. Many people don’t get their ducts cleaned as often as they should,” Ganss said.

Workplace illnesses 

When it comes to fragrances, people are becoming increasingly sensitive to the chemicals. For many, fragrances in perfumes can be overwhelming and nauseating. People can become ill from the inconsiderate use of fragrances in shared workspaces.

It stands to reason that perfume should make one smell good—not make one ill. The fragrance from perfumes, cosmetics, or whatever, should be organic and, if possible, 100% natural.

So, if you would like to smell good, try natural essential oils, of which there are dozens. Lavender is a very popular, recognizable, and delightful one. Personally, I like patchouli.

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