There is another source of unsuspecting and very unregulated toxins that you are most likely exposing yourself to on a daily basis – toxic fragrances. These toxic fragrances aren’t just in perfumes and colognes; they are in a wide array of things. This includes a large majority of personal care products – lotions, shampoos, cosmetics, soaps, etc. Fragrance is obviously used in air fresheners and scented candles. Fragrance is also added to many cleaning products, laundry detergents, dishwashing liquid, fabric softeners and the like.
Fragrances are both inhaled and absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. The chemicals used to create these toxic fragrances may cause acute effects such as respiratory irritation, headaches and allergic reactions and many contain endocrine disruptors and some are even known carcinogens.
Many of these products are not required to list their ingredients. For products that have an ingredients label, often the single word “fragrance” is used to denote the presence of scent, however that one word can actually represent literally hundreds of chemical ingredients.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that at least one-third of the substances that are used in the fragrance industry are toxic. But because the chemical formulas of fragrances are considered “trade secrets”, companies aren’t required to list the specific ingredients, only to label them as containing “fragrance.”
Unfortunately there are no established standards and no policing for even the most controversial ingredients of concern in these toxic fragrances. For example, styrene, pyridine, or benzophenone – which are known carcinogens – have no restrictions whatsoever on their use. Likewise for hormone disrupting chemicals such as Tonalide or Galaxolide.
The Environmental Working Group found that nearly 75 percent of products that list “fragrance” contain phthalates, which is a hormone disrupting chemical. Phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer, have been linked to many hazardous health conditions, such as reduced sperm count, liver and breast cancers, reproductive malformation and diabetes. This carcinogen has been banned in many countries (EU, Japan, South Korea, Canada, even China).
Carcinogens, refer to causing cancer. For example, some chemicals used in creating fragrances can mimic estrogen, which can lead to the development of breast cancer.
Many companies that use fragrance in their products purchase these from companies that specialize in developing fragrances, called fragrance houses. In addition to the chemicals used to create the scent, there are other additives such as stabilizers, solvents, UV absorbers, dyes and preservatives. These are also often not listed in the ingredients either, but rather all considered to be under the “fragrance” label.
The problem is that there are laws that allow companies to not divulge the ingredients in fragrances used. The chemical components in fragrance are protected as “trade secrets” under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act from 1966 [yes, 1966, more than 50 years ago) and are described on the label only as “fragrance.” So it becomes impossible to know what the actual ingredients are. This is a major loophole in the FDA’s regulating of personal care products. This was originally designed to prevent other companies from replicating their products, like KFC’s secret recipe. But it has become a license to put any and everything into a “fragrance” and get away with it.
Not only does the FDA not systematically review the safety of cosmetic and fragrance ingredients, but they have no authority to even require safety testing of fragrances prior to being sold.
The full report on this topic by the Environmental Working Group can be found here:
How to avoid these toxic fragrances
First and foremost don’t buy products that list “fragrance” as there are many similar products available that don’t. Sometimes a product will say “fragrance free” on the front, but the ingredients include “masking fragrance” which is used to cover up other ingredients that smell bad. This too is a fragrance and should be avoided.
For perfume, what I have done is to create my own perfumes using fragrant essential oils from certain flowers. Even here you have to be careful as there are also “fragrance oils” that are made to look like essential oils, but they are not, they are just more toxic chemicals. You want to get “essential oil”, “therapeutic grade”. Essential oils are steam-distilled pure plant extracts. Fragrance oils are synthetic chemical compounds.
I recommend gardenia essential oil, honeysuckle essential oil, rose, jasmine or lavender and vanilla. I have all of them. You mix one with some fractionated coconut oil or you can use witch hazel, diluted with distilled water (half and half), and add drops of the essential oil (how much depends on how strong you want it). These smell incredible and are completely natural.
Rather than using air fresheners you can get a diffuser and use essential oils to diffuse a pleasing scent in a room. You can use lemon or other citrus essential oils in the summer, cinnamon at Thanksgiving, pine at Christmas and there are tons of other options. You can usually get an essential oils sampler with a wide array of scents.
Many of your routine cleaning products are super easy and less expensive to make. For some simple basics on how to do this see my post on this topic: https://www.healthkick.info/non-toxic-cleaning/
An incredible resource that I encourage everyone to access is an organization called the environmental working group, with a website at www.EWG.org. Here you will find a wealth of information along with incredible resources to search a full array of personal products and to find alternatives that are non-toxic and do not contain fragrances. When you have some time, you should fully explore the information in this website.