September 02nd 2009 - Could Your Perfume be Killing You?
By Robin Cunningham Myers, LMT, CH, RRMT, SF
Do you feel incomplete if you do not apply some sort of cologne or perfume? Feel the need for several Plug-In’s around the house, as well as a can of Glade on the back of the toilet? Do you make sure to add a “spritz-for-the-road” just to be sure you smell your very best?
Take care with those fragrances as they may be just the source of some of your chronic health problems, and those of the people around you.
Perfumes are added to nearly everything in our daily environment from toilet paper to ink pens. Products are leaping off the shelves in many stores such as candles, aerosols, hair care products, and cleaning products, all claiming to be aromatherapy. The challenge for the average consumer is to discern between perfumed fragrances, and aromatherapy.
In the past, perfumes were created from essential oils and flower waters. The healing properties were considered along with the aroma of each plant when creating perfumes. This was a genuine use of what is termed aromatherapy.
Today, however, there is very little use of actual plant constituents, and a predominant use of petrochemical derivatives. “About 95 percent of perfume ingredients are not composed of flower essences or natural products as people generally imagine, but synthesized from petrochemicals, which give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs), vapors emitted from compounds like solvents, wood preservatives, paint strippers and dry cleaned clothing,” according to a recent article on MSNBC by Francesca Lyman titled “Scents and Sensitivities, What to know before buying a loved one perfume.”
It is these VOCs that create such chronic health problems as asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis, headaches, vision problems, fatigue, gastrointestinal tract ailments, hair loss, dermatitis, swollen lymph nodes, erratic menstrual cycles, sleep disturbances, Fibromyalgia types of pain patterns, inability to concentrate, liver damage, kidney damage, nausea, loss of coordination, and many others.
Contributing to these types of health problems is a surety if you use commercially based fragrance products. You, yourself, could become highly sensitized to many of these products if they are regular fare, as there can be a reaction by your body caused by many exposures over time, leaving you hypersensitive to everything in your environment. Chemical sensitivities that are physically debilitating are on the rise exponentially. We are being bombarded with VOC’s in every aspect of our lifestyles and petrochemically based fragrances are a significant contribution to many ailments and diseases. All this is the cost of the bill of goods sold by the fragrance industry, which is itself self-policing.
So, what’s the answer? Limit your exposure to VOC’s as much as possible. This includes becoming more educated with your purchasing habits, selecting only those items with pure plant sources for the whole product, not just the last item on the list of ingredients. Pay attention to labels that identify ingredients such as “fragrance”, as these are most likely to contain petroleum products. Fragrances, after all, are trade secrets - secrets that could contain up to 1000 different toxic chemicals and chemical derivatives.
In addition, products that boast being “fragrance-free” and/or hypoallergenic may be neither. Fragrance-free products may contain ingredients that require their smells to be masked. For these products, fragrances have been added to neutralize the smell of the other ingredients. “Cosmetics labeled "hypoallergenic," according to the FDA, offer no guarantee that they won't cause reactions in sensitive individuals.”Hypoallergenic" means only that the manufacturer feels that the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction,” according to Ms. Lyman’s article.
Getting simpler with your personal hygiene and environmental aromas is key to a healthy experience. Don’t buy into the marketing campaign of basic home and personal care products professing to provide “therapy”, when in fact they are filled with toxic chemicals. Educate yourself by picking up a copy of "The Safe Shopper's Bible: A consumer's guide to nontoxic household products, cosmetics and food," by Dr. Samuel Epstein, or researching your public library or health food store for more titles along this line. Investigate true aromatherapy by becoming familiar with pure essential oils and their uses. In addition, finally, don’t go out into a public place loaded with any type of perfume, natural or otherwise, as you could potentially make life very miserable for someone else next to you.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos, NM 87571