Everything You Didn't Want to Know About Scented Products

Scent Chemicals: Innocent Indulgence or Insidious Threat?

In a research paper presented at an American Chemical Society meeting in 2010, a fragrance designer candidly admits that “anywhere from 800 to 1500 chemicals … can be found in a product, depending on its complexity” (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2010/august/secrets-of-scents-designing-the-smells-that-sell-household-products.html).

The multi-billion dollar chemical industry would have us believe that exposure to scent chemicals – some that should scare the pants right off us – is safe. We’re apparently okay because it’s only a small amount of 800-1500 chemicals in just the one product, right? But what about all the other scented products around us? Plus, unlike other indulgences, scent exposure is continuous, especially if it’s on your body, in your home and work environment.

Isn’t this rather like sprinkling a little arsenic on your cereal every day and expecting to be safe? No one can predict with certainty how our bodies will respond, especially in the long term. The chemical industry’s priority is to create the “smell that sells” by manipulating emotions and memory. Profits take precedence over health.

Should we trust an industry that commonly includes toluene in its formulations even though toluene can cause autism and asthma? (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422%2813%2970278-3/fulltext; http://www.bc.lung.ca/mediaroom/scents.html )

Fragrances have become such a ubiquitous part of our culture that people often wear them even when they don’t intend to, particularly if they haven’t checked the label of every hair, skin and laundry product for the term “fragrance,” “perfume,” “parfum” or “aroma.”

Carefully selecting unscented products may help reduce the health risks we all face from the onslaught of chemical scents. The Guide to Less Toxic Products (http://lesstoxicguide.ca/), Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) and the Environmental Working Groups’ Guide to Healthy Cleaning (http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners) are helpful resources.

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