If you’ve walked through a department store lately, you may have overwhelmed by the perfume section. Whether you are obsessed with Obsession, a believer in Believe, or consumed by L’Air du Temps, the smell of perfumes and colognes can be overwhelming. The toxic effects of fragrances can also be overwhelming.
There are over 500 potential chemicals that can be used under the single name “fragrance” found on the label of many products, not just perfumes and colognes. Fragrances are found in “air fresheners,” room deodorizers, cosmetics, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, candles, and many other places. Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the labels of these products, nor do they have to reveal the specific ingredients that qualify as “fragrance” to regulating authorities because they are protected as trade secrets.
Some of the most common chemicals in perfumes are ethanol, acetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, a-pinene, acetone, benzyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, linalool, a-terpinene, methylene chloride, styrene oxide, dimenthyl sulphate, a-terpineol, camphor, and limonene. Some of these chemicals cause irritability, mental vagueness, muscle pain, asthma, bloating, joint aches, sinus pain, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, laryngitis, headaches, dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, spikes in blood pressure, coughing, and burning or itching skin irritations.
And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Acetaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen. In animal studies, it crosses the placenta to a fetus. The chemical industry’s own Toxic Data Safety Sheets list headaches, tremors, convulsions, and even death as a possible effect of exposure to acetonitrile, another common fragrance ingredient. In animal studies, styrene oxide causes depression. Toluene (also known as methyl benzene) is a well established neurotoxin that can cause loss of muscle control, brain damage, headaches, memory loss, and problems with speech, hearing, and vision. Musk tetralin (AETT) has been shown to cause brain cell and spinal cord degeneration.