Fragrance free: 10 Ways to protect yourself from toxic scents

Artificially scented products are bad for your health.  Especially at-risk are  children and pregnant women.

February 24, 2011 — Stinky, sweet smelling air fresheners, cologne, body sprays, and scented shampoo are made with synthetic fragrances, and they’re bad for your health.  Children and pregnant women are especially at risk from these synthetic scents.  These factory-made fragrances contain phthalates, which are chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. 

Artificially scented products can also trigger migraine headaches, allergies and asthma attacks. A recent Institute of Medicine study sponsored by the EPA put fragrances in the same category as second hand smoke as a trigger for asthma in school-age children. Also, in homes where aerosol sprays and air fresheners were used frequently, studies found that mothers experienced 25% more headaches, and infants younger than 6 months old had 30% more ear infections.

Perfumes can add toxic chemicals to the air you breath.

Perfumes can add toxic chemicals to the air you breath.

Scented disinfectants and air fresheners are showing up everywhere! Consumers can call ahead and request no air fresheners in rental cars and at hotels, just like asking for a non-smoking car or room. Ask groomer not to use fragrance when they wash your dog or cat.

Avoiding synthetic scents can be hard when you work at a school or non-service oriented business because most people think the person who is sensitive to fragrance is just plain weird. One chemically sensitive woman was told to attend staff meetings by using Skype on her computer so her co-workers wouldn’t have to give up using cologne or perfume. “They think it’s all in my head,” she said.

Even the mall isn’t a safe haven. The clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch sprays its signature fragrance Fierce inside as well as outside so people are unknowingly exposed to harmful chemicals by simply walking by the store. One environmental group, Teens Turning Green, held protests in San Francisco and New York demanding that the spraying stop. Their effort is supported by more than two dozen groups, including the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which revealed that A&F’s Fierce contains 11 secret chemicals that are not listed on the label.

When you see the word “fragrance” in an ingredient list, you can assume it’s all synthetic—and not a blend of natural flower extracts. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reports that “95% of the ingredients used to create fragrances today are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins and sensitizers.” According to the EWG, there are potentially hundreds of chemicals in a single product’s secret fragrance mixture. 

Be forewarned: Fragrances can contain neurotoxins and are among the top 5 allergens in the world.  

Ten powerful ways to protect yourself from toxic synthetic fragrances:

    1. Avoid air fresheners. They are made with synthetic fragrances, containing phthalates. 

    2. Watch for any product that lists “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label — these are FDA-approved catch-all words synonymous with hidden phthalates. 

    3. Products that claim to be “fragrance free” or “unscented” could contain masking agents that give off a neutral odor, so it is best if the word “fragrance” does not appear on the label at all.

    4. Look for scents that are naturally derived or are plant-based or labeled as 100% essential oils. These are not the same thing as fragrance oils which are artificially created and contain synthetic chemicals.

    5. If a product says “Made with…” it can mean as little as 1 percent of the ingredients in the bottle.

    6. For scented candles, try those made from soy or beeswax, and make sure their fragrance is made from 100% essential oils. 

    7. To clear the air use a non-aerosol citrus spray containing only citrus peel extracts, which are effective at dissolving airborne odors, instead of scented aerosol sprays, liquids that emit a continuous scent, or solid air fresheners.  

    8. Labels that claim a product is “natural” or “biodegradable” do not mean that it is necessarily free of synthetic fragrances or other chemicals

    9. Certified Organic products do not contain synthetic fragrances.

    10. Make requests at hotels, car rental companies, dog groomers, schools, and offices to not use scented cleaning products.

Beth GreerSuper Natural Mom™, bestselling author of Super Natural Homeradio talk show host, former President of The Learning Annex, Certified Build It Green healthy home makeover specialist, eliminated a sizable tumor in her chest without drugs or surgery. She’s leading a movement of awareness and responsibility about healthy home environments and informs and inspires people to transform their homes into safe havens. Beth consults for residential and commercial clients nationwide. Follow Beth on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook or read more on The Washington Times Communities.


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Beth Greer

Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom™, is an award-winning journalist, holistic health advocate, impassioned champion of toxin-free living, and radio talk show host, who busts open the myth that our homes are safe havens.  Her bestselling book, Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet…One Room at a Time (Rodale, 2009), endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Ralph Nader, Peter Coyote and others, shows how food, cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaners and furniture are making us sick.

Formerly President and Co-Owner of The Learning Annex, the largest private alternative adult education company in the U.S., Beth has helped thousands see new possibilities and feel empowered to make changes in their lives. Beth currently hosts her own national show "Your Super Natural Life"  on Clear Channel Radio's Green960 where she shines the light of truth about what goes in us, on us and surrounds us and gives insights on how to live a safer, less toxic, and more natural life.

She’s written for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Home Section and US magazine and blogs on her website supernaturalmom.comintent.com and redroom.com. She has appeared on ABC-TV's The View from the Bay and At Home with Lisa Quinn with segments on How to Turn your Bedroom into a Safe, Healthy Haven and How to Create a Safe, Healthy Kitchen.

Beth was named a recipient of the “100 Magnificent Marin Women Award” by Search for the Cause, a non-profit organization that investigates how exposure to chemicals in our daily lives increases the risk of cancer. 

Beth is a testament to how making small lifestyle shifts can make a huge difference in one’s health. By using alternative methods of healing, eating a diet free of pesticides and avoiding hazardous chemicals in her personal care and household products, Beth eliminated a tumor without drugs or surgery.

Follow Beth on Twitter.

Contact Beth Greer

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