When mom’s birthday or a special anniversary is around the corner and buying a gift is on the agenda, chances are that an expensive perfume is on your mind. And why not? Perfumes, after all, make a great gift. It shows that you picked one out with great thought and it’s something that everyone can use every day. The problem is that when you look beyond the “fruity ” or “musky” labels, it turns out that these fragrances can be full of dangerous or toxic chemicals which aren’t disclosed.
What Are The Hidden Chemicals In Your Perfume?
Other than the chemicals that are mentioned on the label, it turns out that the average fragrance product contains around 14 secret chemicals that are not listed. Many of these substances have not been assessed for safety in personal care products. Manufacturers do not have to reveal all the specific ingredients they use for their unique scent because they are protected as trade secrets.
Some of the most common chemicals found in perfumes are:
- Acetone: Acts as a central nervous system depressant. It is commonly found in detergents, colognes, and nail polish removers. In large quantities, it can even induce a coma.
- Benzyl Alcohol: The synthetic version of Benzyl Alcohol can induce respiratory failure and sudden low blood pressure. It could also cause headaches, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, muscle twitching, and convulsions.
- Benzyl Acetate: This is a carcinogen which can cause eye and lung irritation.
- Methylene Chloride: This was banned by the FDA because of the related toxic effects. However, “trade secrets” allows it to be used.
- Limonene: This is a carcinogenic
- Linalool: This causes respiratory disturbances
- Camphor: This may result in confusion, dizziness, nausea, convulsions, and muscle twitching.
Acetaldehyde, acetonitrile, ethanol, benzaldehyde, a-pinene, a-terpinene, styrene oxide, a-terpineol, and limonene are some of the other potentially harmful chemicals found in perfumes.
The most popular brands of perfumes and colognes contain potential hormone disruptors, sensitizers, and chemicals that have not been certified as safe by the government.1
One of the biggest problems with some of these chemicals is the fact that they are known to be sensitizers which can trigger allergic reactions like headaches, wheezing, asthma, and contact dermatitis. Many popular brands of scents are found to have many different chemicals which disrupt the hormone system. They may mimic the hormone estrogen, for example. They may even affect thyroid functioning of regular perfume users. Other than causing hormone disruption and skin allergies, many of these chemicals could induce or worsen respiratory health issues. They could also impact the brain and nervous system, resulting in both short-term and long-term problems.
There are numerous routes through which fragrance can enter the body such as inhalation, skin absorption, and ingestion. Once it enters the body, the many chemicals can impact any organ or system2
Pregnancy And Perfumes
Chemicals in cosmetics, personal care products, and perfumes are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, accumulating in the body. This pollution can begin from the time you are a baby in your mother’s womb. For example, a recent study found that two synthetic musks called Galaxolide and Tonalide were found in the cord blood of newborn babies.3 These musks (which are present in most scents in the market) are found to result in toxicity to the endocrine system.
It has also been found that frequent exposure of a pregnant woman to certain fragrances and scented cosmetics with diethyl phthalate (DEP) could harm her growing fetus. DEP has been linked with sperm damage in adult men, abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys, and Attention Deficit Disorder in children.4
Why Do Perfumes Continue To Have Harmful Chemicals
Government records show that the vast majority of these secret fragrance chemicals has not been assessed by the safety review panel of the International Fragrance Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or any other publicly accountable institution.
Unfortunately, there is a huge loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 that lets fragrance companies keep their list of cosmetics ingredients hidden from the public. This includes the ingredients that may have potential health risks. Manufacturers may reveal some chemical elements but consolidate others into the generic category of “fragrance.” In this mysterious category of “fragrances” will be a cocktail of many different potentially harmful chemicals.
Hidden chemicals which could increase the risk for certain health problems are not just found in perfumes but also in other scented products that we use daily like bath products, lotions, shampoos, cleaning sprays, laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, and air fresheners. These chemicals also pollute the air and are harmful to the environment as well.
|↑1, ↑3||Sarantis, Heather, O. V. Naidenko, and S. Gray. “Not so sexy: The health risks of secret chemicals in fragrance.” Breast Cancer Fund CaEWG (2010).|
|↑2||Bridges, Betty. “Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns.” Flavour and fragrance journal 17, no. 5 (2002): 361-371.|
|↑4||Public Health Statement for Diethyl Phthalate. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry|