Scents and fragrances harm us and the environment
Artificial scents cause grave harm to people, pets, wildlife and the environment. Fortunately, small shifts in your purchasing habits can drastically reduce their use.
Unless you live under a rock, you know how harmful cigarettes are. Similarly, synthetic fragrances harm not only the user but those in the vicinity. Have you ever sat next to a heavily scented person in a public place and felt unwell? Of course, pregnant women, babies and small children are most vulnerable to these toxic chemicals, but people of all ages can and do experience adverse reactions.
What are scents made of?
Interestingly, “fragrance” or “parfum” doesn’t refer to one single chemical. Rather, the term includes dozens or hundreds of chemical ingredients. As a matter of fact, there are more than 3,100 different fragrance ingredients in consumer products. And shockingly, up to 80% of these are on the market without any testing for human toxicity. Nonetheless, many chemicals in “fragrance” are known to be hazardous, and some have no safe exposure level.
Symptoms of sensitivity to hidden airborne pollutants
Each day, you inhale, ingest, and absorb toxic chemicals through your skin. They accumulate in your body and in the environment. But did you know that your shampoo and dryer sheets can pollute indoor air and give you a rash, an asthma attack or a migraine?
The Environmental Working Group found that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Moreover, many cleaners contain chemicals linked to cancer, infertility, asthma, and allergies. Research by Environmental Defence and the Environmental Working Group found an average of 10 sensitizing chemicals in perfumes, colognes, and body sprays that can trigger allergies, asthma, headaches, migraines, dizzines and other symptoms.
How artificial scents harm the environment
Beyond harming us and our household pets, scented products harm sea and land animals. For example, synthetix musks enter lakes and streams, accumulating in the fatty tissues of aquatic animals. Instead of breaking down over time, they work their way back up the food chain. Ultimately, they accumulate in human breast milk and body fat.
Can you spot it?
Check for the words “fragrance” or “parfum” on your personal care products. Often, they appear last on the ingredient list. Additionally, you can use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to check the safety of the products you use.
Did you know the average woman uses 12 cosmetic products daily, and the average man uses six? Once you start looking for “fragrance” in your home and body products, you’ll find it everywhere, even in some “fragrance-free” or “unscented” products.
Easy steps for scent-free living
Luckily, you can take simple steps to avoid fragrance chemicals and improve your health and protect nature. Lindsay Coulter, Green Living Expert at Fix.com, recently posted a variety of tips for spotting scented products and selecting alternatives.
- Avoid purchasing personal care products with “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label.
- Open a window to improve indoor air quality, and avoid air fresheners.
- Switch to unscented laundry care.
- Make your own nontoxic cosmetics and cleaners with food-grade ingredients that are effective, affordable, and free of fragrances.
- Use natural scents like essential oils sparingly, as some people can react to them.
- Ask if your workplace to adopt a scent-free policy.
- Choose scent-free medical and dental offices and salons.