Perfume Can Be a Weapon to the Chemically Sensitive


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."