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Healthy Vitamins

Why Scents Don’t Make Sense”

Adapted from Chemical Awareness, 2001, Grace Ziem, M.D.

Many people think that personal products with pleasant smells are made from flowers.  This was true many years ago, but today the vast majority of these fragrances are made from petroleum or petro-chemicals.  This creates potential health problems for everyone who uses these products.  It also creates sometimes serious health problems for those who are chemically sensitive and react to synthetic fragrances.

Some Facts About Fragrances Today

  • The National Academy of Sciences, a research branch of the United States Government, has said that scented products are toxic to the brain.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association (ALA) all recognize that scented products can aggravate asthma and respiratory problems.
  • The U.S. Fragrance Association advises that scented products only be used in amounts undetectable at an arm’s length.
  • When you are “smelling the scent”, you are breathing in the chemicals.  So if someone is close to you and can smell the fragrance from your scented laundry detergent or perfume, they are breathing in the chemicals (of course, so are you!).
  • Petrochemical compounds, including scented products, can also enter the body through the skin.
  • At least 1 person in 5 becomes ill when exposed to scented products worn by others.
  • Illness reactions caused by scented products can include migraine headaches, sinus congestion, itchy watery eyes, sore throat, hoarseness, and asthma reactions.
  • Scented hair sprays, colognes, deodorants, and other products can cling to the hair and clothing for many hours, causing illness reactions hours later.
  • Scented laundry detergents are designed to be long lasting, and hence release chemicals all day long.  In fact these scents can and do remain even after several washings for weeks or even months.
  • Fabric softener is designed to cling to clothes, but it flakes off during the day, and irritates the airways of people with allergies, congested nose, sinus problems, cough, hoarseness or asthma.
  • Many scented products contain chemicals that are designed to affect your mood, meaning that they are designed to change the chemical balance in the brain.  Scented products can also cause brain changes such as reduced ability to concentrate, reduced ability to maintain your attention, reduced ability to think clearly, and/or reduced ability to remember.
  • Air fresheners” do not freshen air (fresh air has no odor), since releasing a chemical into the air to cover up an odor does not “freshen” that air.  “Air freshener” is actually a false an  misleading term.
  • Research shows that the vast majority of people with asthma have allergic reactions and a decline in lung function with synthetic scent exposure (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, Immunology).

What can you do about all this?

Avoid using scented products when you are in a public situation where you may encounter or be near individuals who are more sensitive to them.  If you are in a crowd wearing scented products, you probably will be causing illness reactions in some people without knowing it.  Use scented products only when you are in a small group of individuals that you know well when no one has a problem with the scented products.  You might want to consider eliminating all use of scented products for the sake of your and your family’s long-term health, even if you don’t have any chemically sensitive or asthmatic family members. 

Change your laundry detergent to a natural, fragrance-free brand, or even to a conventional fragrance-free variety, so you won’t be carrying that scent around everywhere you go.

NOTE:  “Unscented” products often contain a fragrance that is put in there to cover over the odor of the basic formula.  so if you really want no fragrance, you need to buy one labeled “fragrance-free.”

Also, the term “hypoallergenic” has no FDA standards governing its use.  So it basically means whaever the company wants it to mean.  So a “hypoallergenic” product is not necessarily better for you than one that is not labelled that way.

FDA Disclaimer:  None of the statements on this website have been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  They are not intended to diagnose, treat,  cure or prevent any disease or medical condition.  Furthermore, none of  the statements on this website should be construed as making claims  about curing diseases or dispensing medical advice.  Please consult a  physician or another health care provider before trying any nutritional  supplement, making changes in your diet, or doing new exercises,  especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing medical  conditions or injuries.


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