What’s That Smell?

Well, it probably isn’t roses. In fact, it probably isn’t anything you’ve ever heard of. Synthetic fragrance (mostly listed as just “fragrance” or “perfume” on ingredient lists) is an ingredient you’ll find on the back of everything from lotions, to baby wash, to home cleaning products. “Fragrance” sounds kind of vague, right? Product companies are banking on that because in that one word hides a host of toxic chemicals that disrupt your hormones, cause allergy and asthma attacks, and can even cause cancer. The kicker is, as of 1966, under law they don’t have to disclose anything that’s hiding in that ingredient. A product’s fragrance is considered proprietary and they don’t have to list one single thing that goes into it.

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Let’s talk about the ugly little secrets hiding under that label. Phthalates are known hormone disruptors and are becoming quite the pollutant in our water systems. Phthalates have been known to change reproductive behavior and cycles in lab animals. Infertility anyone? It’s on the rise in America where these hormone disrupting chemicals are prevalent. Synthetic Musks can be found even in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. It’s a known hormone disruptor and has also affected aquatic life, as it’s gotten flushed down the drain from shampoos, body washes, and such. Some aspects of synthetic musk have even been shown to proliferate breast cancer cells. Neurotoxins are abundant in synthetic fragrance. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences have identified the neurotoxins in synthetic fragrance as a major cause of concern but have lacked funds to investigate thoroughly. Asthma and allergy experts have named synthetic fragrance as one of the top 5 allergens and a major concern for causing asthma attacks. Consider that next time you wear your perfume on a crowded elevator.

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So what products should you be concerned about? Well, anything you bring into your home, to be honest. Most mainstream companies do use synthetic ingredients to create long lasting, unique smells. Think about everything from perfume to face lotion to scented candles. Even laundry soap and dryer sheets are chock full of it it. Not only do these products harm us with each use, collectively they overwhelm our systems. We are assaulted by everything we put on our bodies and in our homes. Kids have it even worse. Most products marketed for them are full of synthetic fragrance and then they have to live in our homes full of fragrance-full cleaners, air fresheners, and candles.

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What to do? Natural companies seek out sources from real extracts and essential oils. Take care to pick brands that fully disclose ALL ingredients and don’t hide behind that label of “fragrance”. Also, be aware that things labeled “Unscented” often have chemicals masking their scent. Instead, choose items that say “fragrance-free”.  Those dryer sheets aren’t smelling so fresh now, are they? Well, I promise you there’s a world of safer cosmetics and home products out there. Even DIY products that have the best smelling essential oils you’ve ever smelled. I will post more product recommendations in the near future. In the meantime, turn over those bottles and take a closer look at what’s inside.

More reading:

http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/

http://wellandgood.com/2010/08/10/ingredient-intelligence-what-you-need-to-know-about-fragrance-inskin-care/


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