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Fragrance: A Growing Health and Environmental Hazard. Part 1


This article was authored by Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist), innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder Ferlow Botanical Enterprises Ltd, Vancouver, B.C. manufacturing/distributing organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products to professional health & wellness practitioners in Canada and parts of USA since 1993.

Fragrance: A Growing Health and Environmental Hazard. Part 1

Fragrance Chemical Exposure Is Hazardous To Everyone!

Especially vulnerable are fetuses, children, reproductive-age people, and asthmatic, allergic and chemically-injured people (MCS =Multiple Chemical Sensitivity).

Your skin, your body's largest organ, absorbs fragrance chemicals by direct application, by contact with fragranced items, and by exposure to air containing fragrances. Today's fragrances make you think they are made from flowers and fragranced products provide constant source of fragrance chemicals, that are absorbed by your skin and inhaled as vapors. Did you know that 95% of the chemicals in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum . Many of the chemicals in perfumes are the same chemicals in cigarette smoke, and yet there are no regulation of the fragrance industry. A study by Greenpeace in 2005 discovered that at least 36 well-known perfume brands contained two toxic man-made chemicals "phthalate esters and synthetic musk." It is not acute poisoning, but it is chronic, it stays in the system and accumulates in the fatty tissues of living organisms. Phthalates have a bad effect on the DNA, male sperm and restricts lung function in men. Synthetic musk can attack living tissues. The names of the perfumes, some of them very famous names can be checked on the website: toxic perfumes (http://www.profuma.it/perfume/aromatherapy/toxic_perfumes.htm)

Some fragrance chemicals can alter the skin's surface tension, which greatly facilitates the absorption of other chemicals into the skin.

* fragrances can be skin allergens, irritants and photosensitizers

* 1-2% of the population may have a skin allergy to fragrances

* there is a direct correlation between use of scented products and development of skin allergy to fragrance

* contact dermatitis can be caused by contact with fragrance materials in the air or on surfaces. Fragrances easily volatilize and linger a long time in the air. They settle and stick to your skin, hair, clothes, furnishings, furniture, food...everything!

* Everyone, especially those with eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions, should avoid exposure to fragranced products.

Clothing and bedding washed and dried with fragranced products provide a constant exposure to fragrance chemicals that are absorbed and inhaled. Infants' skin is especially susceptible to to absorbing fragrance chemicals directly from clothing, diapers and bedding, and indirectly from the air.

* Manufacturers specifically make fragrances to be long-lasting. They do not break down easily, and their breakdown products can be more toxic than the original substances.

* Laundry products fragrances accumulate in fabrics and are very difficult to remove from them. If you use laundry facilities where other people use fragranced products, your laundry will absorb their fragrances.

Neurological Effects

Fragrance chemicals affect the brain and nervous system, with some effects being immediate and transistory, and other effects being chronic and long lasting. Effects on the nervous system can occur from chemicals absorbed, inhaled, or ingested.

* Fragrances can: modify brain blood flow, alter blood pressure, pulse and mood and trigger migraine headaches

* AETT and musk ambrette, fragrance chemicals used for decades, were found to be neurotoxic

* Several common fragrance chemicals, when inhaled, have potent sedative effects

* Fragrances are specially formulated and use for public behaviour control.

Respiratory Effects

Fragrances can induce or worsen respiratory problems. A majority of known fragrance chemicals are respiratory irritants and some are respiratory sensitizers. Respiratory irritants, which cause inflammation and increase mucus production, make the airways more susceptible to injury and allergens, as well as trigger and exacerbate such conditions as asthma, allergies, sinus problems, and other respiratory disorders.

* Fragrances can trigger asthma in school-age children and asthma is now the leading serious chronic illness among youth, afflicting nine million American children

* 15% of people experience lower airway irritation from fragrance exposure

* 72% of asthmatic cite fragrance as a trigger and one in fourteen adults suffers from asthma, and asthma rates have doubled since 1980

* a severe asthmatic reaction from acute fragrances exposure may even cause death.

Hormone-Disrupting Effects

Every year more and more commonly-used chemicals are found to be hormone disrupters, and it is presently unkown what percentage of the hundreds of fragrance chemicals have these properties. Fragrances often contain large amounts of phthalates, a group of toxic chemicals, that are known estrogen and testosterone hormone disrupters. Phthalates are used to impart an oily moisturizing film and to help dissolve and fix other ingredients in fragrances.

* Health Care Without Harm, a research and action group, found phthalates in most of the popular beauty products they tested. Reproductive-aged women buy more cosmetics and personal care products than other Americans and have a greater exposure to phthalates.

* A recent study suggest that diethyl phthalate, commonly used in fragrances and other personal care products, damages the DNA of sperm in adult men, which can lead to infertility, may be linked to miscarriages and birth defects, and may led to cancer and infertility in their offspring

* Phthalates have been associated with thyroid disorders, premature breast developments in baby girls and abnormal sexual development in male fetuses and infants (hypospadias and undescended testicles)

* Phthalates are found in the blood of pregnant women at levels of concern. They can cross the placenta and are found in breast milk. Women are exposed to phthalates at home, at work, everywhere

* 100% of people tested have phthalates in their urine.

Systemic Effects

As fragrance chemicals can be absorbed, inhaled or ingested, they can possibly affect any organ or system. A combination of limited human data and a wealth of animal studies show that phthalates, as only one of many chemicals in fragrances, can impair reproduction and development, alter liver and kidney function, damage the heart and lungs, and effect blood clotting.

* Some fragrance chemicals are carcinogens. Many air fresheners contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene, a carcinogen.

Environmental Effects

Indoor and outdoor air quality - Fragrances are volatile compounds and they are constantly released into the air. The widespread use and vast numbers of fragranced products cause extensive indoor and outdoor pollution. Many people find it difficult to enter public buildings, attend public events, stand near people or walk outdoors due to fragrances present in the air. A Norwegian study found synthetic musk fragrance compounds in outdoor air, even in a remote area.

Water quality - Waste water treatment does not remove the constantly increasing quantity and types of fragrance chemicals, many of which are persistent and accumulate in the environment. The documented presence of fragrance chemicals in drinking water, streams and lakes could adversely affect the health of people, animal life and plants.

292 million Americans regularly wash and dry their clothes. Most use fragranced laundry products which pollute the water and the air.

Health Hazards of the most 20 Common Chemicals Found in 31 Fragrance Products

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) Analysis of the 1991 EPA Study

* Cancer - death due to respiratory failure

* Neurotoxic reaction (central and peripheral nervous system), coma, convulsion, headache, depression, dizziness, irritability, confusion, panic attacks/anxiety, memory loss, impaired concentration, drowsiness, insomnia, impaired vision, stupor, spaciness, giddiness, slurred speech, twitching muscles, tingling in the limbs, loss of muscular coordination. The continuous low-level exposure to neurotoxins can lead to progressive and permanent brain damage.

* Inhalation of fragrance can cause asthma, reactive airway disease, difficulty breathing, coughing, drying, irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, and lungs

* Eve irritant, drying and cracking of skin, fatigue

* Damage to the immune systems, kidney and liver damage

* Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, drop or rise in blood pressures

One in five people experiences health problems when exposed to fragrances.

This information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used in the diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease. Any attempt to diagnose and treat illness should come under the direction of your health care practitioner.

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