Hidden chemicals in fragrances can be harmful to your health.
Artificial fragrances are everywhere. You'll find them in cleaning products, laundry detergents, dish soaps, scented candles, air fresheners and in many personal care products such as shampoos, body lotions and deodorants. We’ve been avoiding artificial fragrances for nearly 20 years.
As with other people we know who avoid artificial fragrances, we can’t stand them. We cringe every time we walk through the perfume section in department stores or cosmetic counters in pharmacies. That's our body telling us that artificial fragrances are not quite agreeing with us.
But this isn't just a matter of personal preference. Artificial fragrances are often cited in scientific literature as irritants that can trigger allergies, migraine headaches and asthma symptoms. Some of the fragrance ingredients used in personal care products have even been shown to interfere with our hormone function.
Hidden chemicals in artificial fragrances
An artificial fragrance isn't a single ingredient. It can consist of up to 14 secret chemicals. I use the term “secret chemicals” because manufacturers aren't required to list the chemicals in their fragrances. They're considered trade secrets and proprietary information. This means those fragrances can contain just about anything.
Although we don't know what ingredients make up all these fragrances, we do know that many contain synthetic musks for their scent and phthalates as scent enhancers. Both chemicals can penetrate the skin and circulate in our bodies. One US study found synthetic musks in the majority of human breast milk analyzed.
Another recent study detected seven or more different phthalate metabolites in the urine of 81 per cent of the 163 infants tested. This isn't surprising considering the amount of artificial fragrances used in baby bath products. There's even evidence that some phthalates mimic human hormones which may lead to physical abnormalities, fertility problems and certain types of cancer.
“Fragrances are often cited in scientific literature as irritants that can trigger allergies, migraine headaches and asthma symptoms. Some of them have even been shown to interfere with our hormone function.”
Tips on avoiding artificial fragrances
- Read the ingredients list on labels and stop buying products with chemical fragrances.
- Don’t be fooled by big brands with natural-looking, flowery images on the labels. They do this to give off the appearance of a natural product.
- Many products have "natural" scents that are often synthetically manufactured. For example, a product may say "lavender scent" but won't contain a drop of real lavender.
- If you don't like reading labels, use fragrance-free or unscented products.
- To enjoy the natural aromas of real plants, use certified natural products.