by Joan Haynes
You may have noticed this sign in our office:
To protect the health of our
chemically sensitive patients and staff,
we ask that while visiting
Boise Natural Health Clinic, you do not wear any
fragrance that is perceptible to others.
Fragrances Can Have a Negative Effect to Yourself and Others
You may not realize you are making yourself or other people sick by your fragrances. Because people do not want to offend you or are afraid of being accused of being “sensitive”, your friends or family may not tell you that they get sick from your laundry detergent, lotion, hair products, or perfume. We commonly get people in the office who have no idea that their overpowering fragrance can be perceived even in the back office as soon as they walk into the building or that we need to air the building out as soon as they leave.
People can develop headaches, brain fog, dizziness, nasal congestion or sneezing, nausea, or even pass out when exposed to fragrance. Studies have been done linking some of these chemicals to health problems with the immune, nervous, detoxification, and hormonal systems as well as cancers.
What is a Fragrance?
Perfumes, colognes, and deodorants obviously have fragrance. But so do most seemingly harmless personal care products. Even those marked “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may contain a fragrance along with a masking agent that prevents the brain from perceiving odor. There are over 3000 chemicals that are used as fragrance most of which have not been tested for toxicity alone or in combination. The industry is unregulated – fragrances are considered “trade secrets”. Just because it is on the market, do not assume it is safe.
How to Avoid Exposure
We get exposed to dangerous chemicals in our environment all the time over which we have no control, but we have complete control over what we use on our body and in our home.
- Stop using scented laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. It can take many washings to get the smell out, especially of synthetic fibers. If clothes are permeated, you may need to hang clothes or linens in the sun for a few days – UV light is an amazing detoxifier.
- Get rid of any artificially scented candles, or air fresheners including plug-ins. Some contain acetone, benzene, lead, carbon monoxide, toluene and more!
- If you like fragrances, use essential oils instead of synthetic perfumes. But be careful, essential oils can smell too strong for some people and can affect people with seasonal allergies. You may need to dilute the oil before using on your skin as they can burn. Essential oil sprays make good deodorants.
- There are very few occasions that you need to use toxic cleaning supplies in your home. Learn to use baking soda and vinegar to clean.
- If you are exposed to strong fragrances in your work place, you have every right to ask for a fragrance -free policy to be implemented. Stand up for yourself!
- Environmental Working Group is the best place to go for more information. This non-profit organization has amazing Consumer Guides for non-toxic household and personal care products.