Sunday, 17 May 2009

Is it Perfume or Poison?

Here's the scenario: you are on an elevator. The elevator
stops and in walks someone with WAY too much cologne on and
the smell overpowers you. Your sinuses start to hurt and
you get a bit sick to your stomach. The smell of the
cologne stays with you, in your hair, clothes and nose for
quite a while after – hence the sick feeling does too. Yuk.
It's hard not to think how inconsiderate this person is.

It's not just the smell that is inconsiderate. Have you
ever thought about the chemicals that are used in
fragrances? Many of them are not good for you to breathe
or to put on your body!

This week Time Magazine did an article on air fresheners
and how many brands have been removed from the market due
to high levels of phthalates. Phthalates are estrogenic in
nature, which is believed to contribute to certain cancers.
Phthalates are used to dissolve and carry fragrances and
soften plastics, sealants and similar compounds. They are
commonly found in cosmetics, paint, nail polish and

This peaked my interest on fragrances in general – so, as
usual, I did some research. Although fragrances have been
used for centuries, they were made from plant and animal
sources. Modern fragrances are primarily synthetic
materials developed since World War II.

Did you know that 600 or more chemicals may be used in a
single fragrance, and 95% of chemicals used in them are
derived from petroleum? Why? Petro-chemicals in perfumes
are less expensive and more easily available than the
natural ingredients.

Many chemicals used in fragrances are considered hazardous
waste disposal chemicals! Synthetic fragrance compounds
accumulate in human tissue and are found in breast milk.

An EPA study in 1991 listed the 20 most common chemicals
used in "fragrance products" which are used not only in
perfumes but to scent shampoos, soaps, deodorants, lotions,
creams and other beauty products. Here's the list – it
speaks volumes on its own:


There are relatively few studies available concerning the
use and exposure to fragranced products. Testing by the
cosmetics/fragrance industry focuses on skin effects
without taking into account respiratory, neurological, or
systemic effects. There is little regulation of fragrance
by regulatory agencies. Not only is too much perfume often
offensive to many, more and more people consider it to be
an indoor air pollutant. Some are quite vocal about their
opposition to the use of perfumes. For years, I thought I
was the only one who got headaches from strong perfume!

There is a movement afoot to curtail the use of fragrances
in the work place. Many businesses, at the request of their
employees, are creating fragrance-free policies. Given
that many people are highly affected by allergies, this
makes sense (pun intended, get it? ... sense...scents...).

But seriously, given that we are bombarded by more and more
hazardous chemicals and pollution, having less on our
bodies, homes and in our workplaces must be better for ALL
of us. Breathe deeply and live well!

Sources: Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace, (Report by
the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of
Representatives, Sept.16, 1986. (Report 99-827). "Living
Healthy in a Toxic World," David Steinman 1996. "Stink-Free
Office Mates," Natural Health Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2000. "How Fressh is
the Air Freshener?",8599,1664954,

About the Author:

About the Author:
Ainsley Laing, MSc. has been a Fitness Trainer for 25 years
and writes exclusively Body for Mind eZine. She holds
certifications in Group Exercise, Sports Nutrition and
Personal Fitness Training. She is also a professional
engineer and mom. To see more articles by Ainsley visit or the blog at