Perfumed Poison: the Hidden Dangers of Fragrances

Posted on September 3rd, 2010 by Dr. Mercola  |  34 Comments »

After getting out of the shower, dressing up, and fixing your appearance, you’re all set to go to school, work, or a night out. You then put on your favorite perfume for good measure. But have you ever questioned if what’s inside your perfume bottle is completely safe?

Fragrances are all around us. It’s difficult to avoid taking a whiff of someone’s perfume in the office, at a movie theater, on the train, or other closed spaces. Besides colognes and perfumes, scents are found in air fresheners, candles, dryer sheets, laundry products, shampoo, and other personal care products.

Most scents are pleasant; some are irritating or overpowering. Dr. Mercola is quick to point out that these fragrances do not come from flowers and other natural sources.

The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires cosmetic ingredients to be listed on product labels, but explicitly exempts fragrances. This means that the fragrance industry can put in anything they want–even if those ingredients are harmful to your health.

Fragrance makers use more than 5,000 different ingredients. Dr. Mercola shares several alarming facts about these fragrance ingredients:

•    Only about 1,300 fragrance ingredients have actually been tested and evaluated.
•    16 percent of the colognes, fragrances, and perfumes reviewed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) use carcinogenic ingredients. 18 percent contained penetration enhancers that increase the exposure to carcinogens and other harmful ingredients.
•    About 95 percent of the chemicals used as fragrance ingredients are petroleum based chemicals.
•    The EWG found that there are 38 secret chemicals found in 17 brand name perfumes, including those by American Eagle, Armani, and Chanel.

Smell Good at Your Health’s Expense

Two of the most common ingredients are phthalates and synthetic musk. Phthalates are plasticizing ingredients classified as endocrine disrupters. They are probable reproductive or developmental toxins linked to birth defects and low sperm count in men. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, organ damage, and immune suppression.

Synthetic musk, on the other hand, is not listed on perfume labels. Musk chemicals like AHTN, ketone, and xylene have been found deposited in human breast milk and fat tissue. A study conducted by two Stanford researchers showed that synthetic musks may inhibit your body’s natural defenses against toxicants.

The harmful chemicals in fragrances are either inhaled or absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in your body. Dr. Mercola warns that the more perfume and personal care products you use, the greater the risk of polluting your body with multiple dangerous ingredients. This pollution begins in the womb and continues through life.

You don’t need to use artificial fragrances for the opposite sex to notice you. The latest research shows that your natural scent is more seductive than perfume. Simply sniffing the shirt of an ovulating woman is enough to significantly increase a man’s testosterone levels. Men may be able to sense the time a woman is most fertile based on her natural scent.

This “scent,” however, may stimulate your senses at an unconscious level through pheromones. Pheromones are small organic molecules that influence biological processes to stimulate your sex drive.

To protect yourself and those around you, avoid all artificial fragrances. Switch to natural scents made from high-quality, 100 percent pure essential oils instead, Dr. Mercola advises.

Take note that essential oils come from plants. They are different from fragrance oils, which are artificial and often contain synthetic chemicals. Fragrance oils may smell good and are typically less expensive. But they do not provide the therapeutic benefits of organic essential oils, and may not be as safe.

Pregnant women should exercise caution when using essential oils, as small amounts can produce potent changes. Consult an expert in aromatherapy before experimenting with these oils.

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  22. gail says on :

    You might want to note the result of excessive perfume and other chemical exposure is a disability call Mutiple chemical sensitivty. I am afflicted with this, and it is a nightmare. The smallest amount of fragrance causes a myriad of debilitating symptoms such as burning eyes, headache, confusion, etc. Avoiding fragrance is impossible in todays society, and requesting fragrance lovers to discontinue their use for you, is like asking for a kidney! Would you force a diabetic to eat a cup of sugar everytime you see them. OF course not. Then why will you force MCS sufferers to smell your toxic fragrance? I have to work from home, I cannot go out with anyone unless they agree to go fragrance free, and I have to avoid many public place and their frgrance loaded bathrooms because they all make me ill. It leads to a very angry and isolated existance. Fragrance, just as smoking, should be banned in all public business’s and governtment buildings. Wear it in the confines of your own home. ONLY.

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    The usage of fragrances by the people are high in recent days and it keeps on increasing. They do not have much awareness on the poisonous effects of the fragrances. Thanks for sharing it.

  28. Brian says on :

    Good points. I stopped using synthetic fragrances and lotions years ago. If it goes on your skin, it ends up in your organs. You can still smell nice with organic coconut oil or other natural oil based lotions, or even by adding essential oils of your favorite fragrance into organic unscented base lotions.

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  32. Is Your Health Being Destroyed by Other People’s Toxic Fragrances? | Health Impact News says on :

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  34. Ruth P says on :

    I enjoyed this article very much. I wish I could post it in the building where I work. The fragrances found in cologne, perfume, candles and even soaps plays havoc on my allergies and asthma. I could tell you most of this because of everyday life but I am glad to know that I am not crazy in thinking I must have a chemical allergy.

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