Fragrance Ingredients – The Smoking Gun

Fragrance Ingredients - The Smoking GunFragrance ingredients. Do you know what’s in a fragrance or perfume? Have you even given it any thought? Don’t you ever wonder what’s behind that word ‘fragrance’ when you find it on an ingredient list in your skin care or laundry products?

It seems like such a benign term, right? All innocent and sweet-sounding. Like the fragrant flowers of Spring?

Sadly, I learned the truth about fragrance ingredients years ago. I learned why they use that word ‘fragrance’ on an ingredient list, rather than telling you what is in a fragrance. They want you to believe that it’s a trade secret. I called B.S. on that a long time ago. I learned through the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that there were many harmful chemicals lurking within that sweet-sounding word.

What I Know About Fragrance Ingredients

I had actually suspected something like that years before, when my perfume “allergy” turned out to be to many perfumes and not just one. But when I learned this news, no one wanted to hear it. I would list things like acetone, phenol, and benzene. No one cared. They all focused on the phthalates. Phthalates were the focus because they were endocrine disruptors.

WTH? It’s okay if you kill me, make me sick, or give me cancer; just don’t mess with my hormones? Makes no sense to me.

What about the rest of the ingredients? People turned a deaf ear. I lost friendships and even strained family relationships over this issue. No one listened, because I had no proof. And they didn’t want to give up their fragrances. As long as that sweet-smelling word “fragrance” was all they saw, they were ok. Ignorance is bliss, right?

And don’t even get me started talking about “masking fragrances.” You find those in products labeled “unscented” and their purpose is to mask the odor of even more noxious chemicals. You gotta love it when they use poison to mask the smell of poison, right?

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I was thinking about all of this last week while driving to a dental appointment. Wondering why especially women who were pregnant and women with young kids would allow themselves and their families to be exposed to all of those chemicals? I recalled a document I stumbled upon recently. Would that document have any influence? Would it change any minds?

Fragrance Ingredients – The Smoking Gun

The document I’m referring to is from the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and is called “The Transparency List.” It’s a 93-page PDF listing 3,999 materials that have been reported as used in fragrance compounds in 2015! Everything on the list is a scientific name, and no doubt some of these are extracts from various plants. But others are not so benign.

For example, benzene. The word benzene is found on 47 pages for a total of 70 entries. Benzene itself is classified as a carcinogen. So most, if not all, of the benzene related compounds are also carcinogenic. Perhaps you’ve heard of benzene? People show up to protest whenever benzene is found in drinking water. Why would inhalation or skin exposure be any different?

Another example is phenol, aka phenolic acid. Phenol or phenol containing compounds are listed 56 times in that document. I found this information about phenol from the EPA: “Phenol is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans after acute (short-term) inhalation or dermal exposures.” When they put it in fragrances? The exposure becomes chronic and long-term.

I can tell you first hand about phenol. Years ago, when I worked in research, we used phenol for extraction purposes. A jar of phenol fall out of the refrigerator and broke. It spilled all over my legs and burned my foot.

Why All the Chemicals?

That’s just a couple of examples of some of the ingredients used in fragrances. Some may be used for their particular odor or fragrance; while others are used to increased the overall ‘life’ of the fragrance – how long it stays around. It’s a big business. Just watch the laundry product commercials and how they talk about the “fresh, clean smell” of clothes laundered in their products and how it lasts for up to 6 weeks. (By the way, I get the same fresh, clean, long-lasting smell with my laundry with ZERO fragranced products.)

And, when it comes to laundry products, your exposure, AND your child’s exposure, is all the time. From skin contact with clothes washed in fragranced products to the inhaled fragrances at night from bed linens.

The reality is that the fragrance industry has convinced so many of us that we must have all of these scents around. I’m living proof that you can live just fine without them. And my husband’s asthma has never been in better control since our house became 100% fragrance free.

That’s about all I have to say on this subject for now. Each of us has free will to make our own choices. To decide for ourselves what we want to expose ourselves to, especially on a daily basis. What will you do, knowing the possible ingredients in your every day products?

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