Synthetic Fragrances are MORE Powerful in Summer Months…

What do the following people have in common?

  • People with allergies (50 millions in the US)
  • People with asthma (15 million in the US)
  • People with chronic severe headaches (45 million in the US)
  • People with sensitivities (10 to 30 million in the US)

Did you know…

  • Current research shows three in five people respond negatively to synthetic fragrances?
  • Your perfume (or fragranced product) may be another’s poison?
  • You do not have to be wearing perfume, cologne, or a scented product to be negatively affected by it—it merely has to be airborne within approximately a 20-foot perimeter.
  • Fragrances were studied for their effect with chronic lung disease, particularly asthma. Study results differ, but some data suggests as many as 75 percent of known asthmatics (i.e. approximately 11 million people in the U.S. alone) have asthma attacks triggered by fragrances.
  • A number of studies show how fragrance affects the brain.. Because of the strong connection between scent and memory, we know that fragrance products can cross the blood brain barrier. This is important because it means fragranced chemicals have the potential to affect, and possibly damage, brain tissue. This kind of effect is called neurotoxicity. For example, Linalool, the most abundant chemical in perfume and fragrance products, is known to cause lethargy, depression, and life-threatening respiratory effects.
  • As an example of how powerful the effects of fragrance can be in the brain, one Japanese study showed that an organic citrus fragrance was more effective in alleviating depression than were prescription anti-depressants—the fragrance has psychoactive properties, placing it in the category of psychoactive drugs (i.e. Prozac, Valium, Elavil, etc.).
  • Fragrance chemicals enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, the nose and mouth, and absorption through the skin—then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. Individual sensitivity to the effects of fragrance chemicals varies widely from no effect at all to severe symptoms for those who are hypersensitive or have compromised immune systems.

Children are significantly more susceptible than adults to the effects of fragrance chemicals, yet fragrances are added to nearly every baby and cleaning product on the market. A parent who wears perfume or uses scented products may well be poisoning the air their children breathe. Exposure to fragrances may result in the child having difficulty concentrating, learning disabilities, hyperactive behavior, and even growth retardation and seizures in extreme cases. Even if you think avoiding fragranced products will protect your child, evidence shows that fragrance chemicals can be stored in the body, showing up in breast milk in the nursing mother. A frightening prospect indeed!

Symptoms experienced as a result of exposure to synthetic fragrances of any kind, include, but are NOT limited to:

  • sneezing, nasal congestion
  • watery eyes, blurred vision
  • headache (especially migraine)
  • sinus problems
  • anxiety
  • wheezing (especially in asthmatics)
  • shortness of breath
  • inability to concentrate
  • brain-fog
  • dizziness
  • convulsions
  • nausea
  • hyperactivity (especially in children)
  • sore throat, chest tightness, chronic cough
  • tremor(s)
  • extreme fatigue
  • lethargy
  • muscle pain and tenderness to touch
  • sleep disturbances (from insomnia to un-restorative sleep)
  • drowsiness
  • blurred vision and extreme difficulty focusing

The Human Ecologist published a member survey fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, to gauge member perceptions of their health-related concerns. Responses began to come back almost immediately by return mail, and are still arriving in the HEAL office. A significant percentage of all respondents reported difficulties with exposures to fragrances used by others. Here are some verbatim samples of how members filled in the blank in the following sentence:

My most troublesome exposure is...

  • fragrance in all forms.
  • neighbors’ fragranced dryer exhaust in my yard which prevents me from enjoying a neighborhood walk or private time in my own yard.
  • perfume and hairspray on co-workers.
  • perfume, aftershave, cologne in the hospital, and in stores.
  • perfume (any fragranced product), because it keeps me from church and social gatherings, and from building a support system.
  • perfume in church and restaurants.
  • perfume, especially in public buildings and on people.
  • perfume everywhere.
  • fragrances, because everyone wears fragrance of some sort in public.
  • perfume- it’s ubiquitous.

De-scents-itizing Your Home

  • Dryer Sheets—Try dryer balls, or safe reusable cloths made by Static Eliminator (at health stores and online). You can also use an aluminum foil ball in the dryer, 1/2 to 1 cup white distilled vinegar in the washer rinse cycle, or separate your synthetics and cottons when drying to avoid static cling.
  • Laundry Detergents—Use fragrance-free detergents and softeners from responsible companies. A safe and economical option is to use three reusable T-wave™ washer discs that will be effective through 700 wash loads…no detergent required! I’ve used mine for years and love them (haven’t purchased or used detergent in over eight years).
  • Air Fresheners—Instead of masking odors, identify and remove the source and properly vent.
  • Take shoes off at the door
  • Empty trash often
  • Open window or use fan in bathrooms or kitchen

  • Filtration—Air cleaners and purifiers are important to improve indoor air quality, especially for those individuals highly reactive or with compromised immune systems. Not all filters are the same. Avoid filters with plastic parts or materials that off-gas. A reputable company that makes HEPA filtration systems combined with other filtration materials, and customized for your specific needs, is available through your environmental health care professional built to filter your specific airborne pollutants.
  • Cleaning Products—The most inexpensive, safe cleansers are baking soda and water (for deodorizing), white distilled vinegar and water (for cleaning when mixed with water and a few drops of chemical-free dish-washing soap), Bon Ami (for scrubbing), and hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting). I also recommend you consider using a washcloth moistened with silver hydrosol and carry in a zip-lock bag while on trips and away from home much easier and healthier than alcohol-based antibacterial agents that reduce our own body's defenses.
  • Essential Oils, Incense and Candles—A good alternative to synthetic scents is pure essential oils. They can be placed around the house (onto gauze, cotton balls, or a diffuser), worn as perfume, or used as a room and car deodorizer. Use a very small amount because those that are highly responsive may still react to essential oils because of a compromised immune system. When someone you know suffers from multiple allergic response syndrome (MARS.) do not wear any fragrance because the cellular memory recalls that fragrances are dangerous and does not differentiate between synthetic or natural oils and may still cause a serious allergic response until their body is again able to protect them and responses diminish.

  1. For candles, try soy, natural beeswax or, better still, battery-operated. Don't trust "unscented" because we know manufacturers can use other chemicals to mask chemical scents. A good alternative is battery-operated candles. I received some as a gift and have now gifted several to friends—the atmosphere they create is the same as regular candles without the health-depleting effects.
  2. Don't assume all incense is safe; it has combustible materials, may include contaminants, and may contain artificial fragrances and other toxic chemicals, including lead depending on country of origin.

Yes, it does take effort to de-scents-itize your home. That said, it's more energy and cost-effective to stay well rather than get well, naturally.

In next month's article, I specifically name the 13 most common chemicals found in fragranced products.
Dr. Gloria—Your Health Detective


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