Perfume Can Be a Weapon to the Chemically Sensitive


Posted by on Sun, September 26, 2010

These days I spend a lot of time talking to people and writing about environmental awareness. There are many angles and issues involved under this huge umbrella, but the one that stands out for me now is what I perceive as an epidemic of perfume overuse and abuse. The sweet side of this emotionally charged issue is the fact that a little awareness is an easy preventative step, far easier than trying to reverse the harm such ignorance can induce.

Imagine not being able to walk down the detergent aisle of your local grocery store, watch a play at your local community theater, or go to a movie because you know you will become dizzy, nauseated, break out in hives, or worse, have an anaphylactic reaction. These may seem like small sacrifices in the larger scheme of things, but having one’s world shrink, especially when we live in such a clean and natural place, is distressingly ironic as well as preventable.

It seems that our national psyche is obsessed with classifying odors into "good smells" and "bad smells." These is an epidemic of plug-in air "fresheners," synthetic fragrances, and synthetically-scented personal care products whose goal seems to cover up any nasty natural smells we may emit. "Fragrance," the term for artificial scent in everything from detergent to deodorant to makeup, is 85 to 95% petrochemical, containing among other hazardous substances: neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, formaldehyde, camphor, phthalates, etc. Human bodies were not designed to be assaulted by volatile organic compounds and petroleum products on a daily basis. For those who are allergic or chemically sensitive, these pose serious health hazards. For those who are asymptomatic, unseen bioaccumulation may present you with your own symptoms in the future.

Please, next time you get ready to go to an indoor event with a large group of people, consider how the chemicals you put on your body affect other people. And if you must wear perfume, remember that one drop goes a long way. As they say in the field of environmental medicine, "Clean doesn’t have a smell."

Comment 1
Thu, September 30, 2010 9:27am
Chris Johnson
All my comments

Thank you for bringing this topic to people’s attention, Sande. For more on this subject and the pervasive polluting of our bodies and our environment by unnecessary chemical substances, most of which serve only one purpose: profit, please read the book, “Slow Death by Rubber Duck.” Very, very informative.

One thing to know, the chemical companies and manufacturers of products like personal care products know that people are becoming more sensitive about chemical pollution and more interested in avoiding products that contain harmful chemicals. But these chemicals are very profitable for the corporations, so instead of removing them from the products, they have simply hidden them by disguising their names in the ingredients list on their products.

For example, industry knows that everybody is on the alert to avoid pthalates. But, as mentioned, pthalates are extremely profitable for the corps, so they decided to trick consumers by changing the name from pthalate to Parfum or Fragrance on the ingredients list. These two words, “Parfum” and “Fragrance” are now industry code words for pthalates.

Next time you go shopping, check out the ingredients list on just about any personal care product or cleaning product on the shelves. They all have parfum or fragrance listed as an ingredient. Bad stuff for your body. Pthalates are hormone-mimicking substances—there is no acceptable level for your body.

The ultimate thing to keep in mind is that the corporations who profit from you and I see us only as disposable consumers and cash cows. They care not a whit about your health or mine or our children’s, they care only about their profits. And with the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision, they are now directly and openly buying politicians to run cover for them.

The only way to protect yourself is to be vigilant: read product labels and make buying decisions accordingly. Don’t buy their poisoned products just because they tell you to or tell you that they’re safe. Protect yourself, nobody else is going to.

Comment 2
Thu, September 30, 2010 9:48am
Sande Anfang
All my comments

Thanks for your comment, Truthmaker. I have read “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” and am currently reading “My House is Killing Me,” about the mold-dust-mite ecosystem that inhabits our homes. It would make a terrifying horror film.

In my humble opinion, the best books are two tomes by Doris Rapp, the doctor “mother” of multiple chemical sensitivity. Her book “Is This Your Child” exposes the toxins children are subjected to in school on a daily basis.

We need legislation. National groups like the Environmental Working Group and local ones like Teens Turning Green (out of Marin) have been staging events such as a boycotting of Abercrombie and Fitch stores nationwide for spraying their “signature fragrance” (read “toxin”) in their stores.

I keep a squeaky green house and body. Unfortunately, it’s the ignorance of others at the mercy of hugely greedy corporations and minimal ingredient labeling laws that are perpetuating this nefarious menace.

Take talc, for example. It’s a known carcinogen. It used to be the main ingredient in baby powder. It was replaced by cornstarch, a much healthier choice. Guess what? It’s back. How do they get away with it? I believe that chemicals which cannot legally be bought in isolation can be combined into products and sold that way, since there is virtually no regulation.

I’ve written a “Perspective” to KQED about artificial fragrances and smells in general. How sad it is that our kid can’t grow up knowing the natural smells of things because every inch of their environment is infused with petrochemical fake “fragrances” which contain benzene and camphor, among other delectable substances. What is this obsession with covering up so-called “bad smells” about, Anerica? It seems to be a pervasive metaphor for covering up truths in general.