If all fake fragrances (manmade smells or synthetic perfumes), which I call fakegrances, were banned tomorrow the world would be a dramatically healthier place by the following day. That’s not going to happen, but the more people who refuse to use them in any form, the faster they’ll disperse (so to speak). But watch out, those who manufacture products containing fakegrances are sneaky. The word “unscented” usually means that fragrances have been used to cover up fragrances. To actually avoid fakegrances you have to look for the words “fragrance free” on the label.
By fakegrances I mean that they're not found in nature. Oh sure, they may smell like a rose, or mint, or apple, but what goes into creating that aroma has nothing to do with the flower or fruit. Virtually all perfumes, scented laundry soaps and fabric softeners, so-called air fresheners (they should be called air poisoners) and many cleaning products are scented with fakegrances. Even dry cleaners are getting into the act, handing back clothes that are clean, pressed and exuding fakegrance.
Perfumes are All Fakegrances
Well, almost all. Unless they’re pure essential oils, they’re made from a nasty brew of dozens if not hundreds of chemicals which are, of course, a secret. For example, the benzene family of chemicals tends to have a sweetish aroma that is very popular among perfumers. The benzenes are petroleum-based, so they’re cheap, easy to come by, and, by the way, a known cause of leukemia. It was one thing when a woman spritzed some benzene on her wrist before a romantic evening, but it’s quite another when it’s everywhere from clothes to cars to the restroom in the dentist’s office.
Or how about those phthalates, plastics that can interfere with the normal sexual development of a fetus or infant. Phthalates have recently been banned from toys in California which is great, but how about clothes and bed sheets? Apparently phthalates make fakegrances stick around longer so they’re in just about everything scented. Here’s where to find a couple of articles on Xenohormones and phthalates.
Asthmatics Should Look for Fakegrances as Causes
I don’t want to downplay those good old-fashioned allergens such as ragweed and cats, but according to the Environmental Working Group, “Fragrance formulas are considered to be among the top five known allergens and can trigger asthma attacks.” Are doctors giving this information to their asthmatic patients? Not very often.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that many processed foods contain fakegrances. Take for example diacetyl, a chemical that gives microwave popcorn its buttery flavor and aroma, and also causes serious lung disease when heated and inhaled frequently. Diacetyl is being phased out of microwave popcorn, but not before many popcorn factory workers were permanently disabled by it. Now it might take a lot of microwave popcorn fumes to knock down an adult, but how about a child with asthma?
For optimal health, it’s important to avoid fakegrances, and it’s also important to speak up if they’re in a public area. You’ll be amazed at how many other people will suddenly admit they hate fakegrances when you speak up. If someone in your workplace is using heavy perfume, or there’s an air freshener in the restroom, do something about it. You have a right to breathe clean air.
From the Hopkins Health Watch Q&A (Questions and Answers)
Q: My son's asthma has almost gone away since I got rid of the air fresheners in our house and truck. Thank you for helping us figure that out! You mentioned that almost all fragrances are “fake.” [See above article.] My favorite brand of cosmetics says it’s “naturally scented.” Does that mean it’s a real fragrance?
A: Sorry about that, but “naturally scented” means absolutely nothing. It probably smells like something in nature such as apple or rose or jasmine, but it’s likely made from the same old nasty chemical brew, complete with carcinogens, xenohormones and allergens. The only way to be sure that a scented product is for real is to read the label. If it says, “pure essential oils” or “lavender oil” for example, it’s the genuine article. There is also a pure essential oil called “jasmine absolute.” If in doubt, google it. If it’s made in China, all bets are off regardless of what the label says.