Fragrance sales, largely composed of man-made chemicals are a $10 billion dollar a year industry. Fragrance can be made of thousands of compounds, most of which are synthetic, and many proven to harm human health. According to a recent survey, one in four are now sensitive to everyday chemicals found in products like deodorants and air fresheners.
Fragrances are found in practically everything. The FDA requires that ingredients are listed on their products, however ‘fragrance’ is a general clumping of any one of 4,000 chemicals (mostly synthetic) used to scent products. This unknown fragrance mixture can contain potentially hundreds of toxic volatile organic compounds, some of which have been shown to cause cancer.
The Problem With Fragrance
The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus. Other symptoms when exposed to fragrances include: headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, coughing, vomiting and allergic skin reactions. Fragrances also can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, irritability and other behavioral changes.
“We’re exposed to these chemicals continuously, but people may not realise they’re being harmed until it’s too late, and then they have chemical sensitivity,” says Anne Steinemann of the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, who conducted the survey.
Fragrance has become one of many causes of environmentally related pseudo-illnesses that include multiple chemical sensitivity, also known as idiopathic environmental intolerance, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
A healthy person’s body responds much differently to environmental toxins than that of someone with Chemical Sensitivities. Many healthy people can be around dangerous chemicals with mild symptoms or none at all because their bodies are able to effectively detoxify during and after the exposure. But a person with CS does not have that ability, or if they do, the detoxification process is dramatically slower for them. Their symptoms will be much more severe and will take a lot longer to go away. They will react very strongly to even very minute amounts of fragrances and chemicals in the environment. Many become severely debilitated or even permanently disabled by this illness.
One study in the U.K. of 14,000 pregnant women showed a link between the use of air fresheners and aerosol sprays and an increase in headaches and depression in the mothers, as well as ear infections and diarrhea in their babies. In homes where air fresheners and aerosol sprays were used on most days, women experienced 25% more headaches and 19% more post-natal depression than women in homes where such products were used less than once a week. Babies under six months old who were exposed to air fresheners on most days had 30% more ear infections and a 22% greater chance of diarrhea than babies exposed less than once a week.
Back in 2002, less than 3 percent of respondents to a similar survey said they had been medically diagnosed with sensitivity to such chemicals. But in the latest survey, this has risen to 13 percent, with 26 percent diagnosing themselves as experiencing physical reactions to chemicals.
Asthmatic problems were most prominent, reported by 71 percent of those with medically diagnosed sensitivity and 59 percent of the self-reporters. Migraines, skin problems and shortness of breath were also commonly reported symptoms.