(NaturalHealth365) The dangers of secondhand smoke are well known. But, what about the dangers of “secondhand scents?” A study shows that a stunning 34 percent of the American population suffer adverse effects after exposure to air fresheners and other scented products.
And fully half of those affected experience health problems serious enough to be classified as “disabling.” Keep reading to find out how ordinary scented products can present serious risks to environmental quality – and to your health.
Study author: Harm caused by fragrance products is at “epidemic” proportions
In a population survey published in Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, researcher Professor Anne Steinemann examined the impact of common scented products on the health of 1,136 adults in the United States. Dr. Steinemann, an internationally recognized authority on health effects of environmental pollutants, concluded that adverse effects from these problems constituted an “epidemic.”
Fragrances occur in a huge variety of commercial products, including laundry detergents, fabric softeners, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, shampoos, hair sprays, soaps, perfumes and scented candles. Exposure also results from the practice known as “scent branding,” in which fragrances are wafted through the entire indoor environments of public spaces such as hotels, airports and shops.
In fact, Dr. Steinemann reported that 99 percent of Americans are regularly exposed to fragranced products – whether through their own use, or through involuntary exposure from someone else’s use.
The study revealed that almost a quarter of all Americans experience adverse effects from proximity to someone wearing fragranced products – such as perfumes, colognes or lotions. 19 percent of the population has problems being in a room that has been cleaned with scented products, while a significant 14 percent experience health problems from the scent of laundry products being vented from homes or businesses into the environment.
Warning: Reactions to fragrances can be debilitating
Exposure to synthetic chemicals in fragrances can cause a range of symptoms, including migraines, dizziness, rashes, muscle cramps, mucosal symptoms and gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea or diarrhea. Immune system problems – such as swollen lymph glands, fatigue, and fever – can also occur, along with even more serious conditions such as anaphylaxis, loss of consciousness, seizures and rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Dr. Steinemann reported that the most common adverse effects were respiratory problems – at 18.6 percent – congestion — at 16.2 percent – and migraine headaches, at 15. 7 percent.
Important note: When it comes to triggering asthma attacks, the Institute of Medicine have placed fragrances in the same category as secondhand smoke.
For at least half of the individuals affected, the effects are severe enough to be potentially disabling – as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In other words, the negative effects had the ability to substantially limit major life activities such as seeing, hearing, eating, walking, learning, reading, communicating or working.
And, according to the survey, 15 percent of the population reported losing workdays – or even a job — due to the effects of fragrances.
In addition, 22 percent reported having to avoid specific areas because of possible exposure to a fragrance that would sicken them. And 20 percent typically decide to leave an area upon detecting a fragrance. (as you can see, the problem is really bad.)
The word “fragrance” is used to disguise a witches’ brew of toxins
Outrageously, manufacturers can use a single word – “fragrance,” or “perfume” – on a product label in order to designate a cocktail of up to 100 noxious chemicals and synthetic compounds.
An analysis of 37 fragrance products showed that they emitted 156 different VOCs (volatile organic compounds), 42 of which were classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S.. federal law. Yet, fewer than 3 percent were disclosed on the products’ labels or websites.
Fragrance chemicals include human carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, respiratory irritants and toxins such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, chloromethane and ethanol. Toluene, a hazardous waste product that has been shown to damage the central nervous system, is often found in fragrance samples.
According to Dr. Steinemann, even low-level exposure to these toxins can cause such serious (unwanted) effects like, asthma attacks, anaphylaxis, seizures and unconsciousness. In addition, synthetic fragrances have been linked to adult and childhood cancers, neurological problems, immune system weakening and autoimmune disorders.
Are we really willing to sacrifice our health for the sake of a pleasing scent?
Let the buyer beware: Deceptive labels conceal toxins
Warning: a label claiming the product is “green,” “natural” or “organic” is no guarantee of safety – as even products labeled in this way can emit hazardous environmental pollutants.
In another example of deceptive labeling, “unscented” products often contain perfume – in the form of a “masking fragrance” that hides the telltale scent of the synthetic chemicals.
Fortunately, safe alternatives to toxic cleaning supplies and personal care items do exist. Natural health experts advise using non-toxic standbys such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, lemon juice and unscented castile soap – while substances such as rosemary, avocado and olive oil can be used to create natural beauty products.
Dr. Steinemann, who says her study has “important implications for businesses, schools, homes and other private and public places,” strongly recommends the institution of “fragrance-free” policies. As her study makes clear, the majority of Americans do not want to be assaulted by unwanted fragrances – and many have shown they are willing to vacate the premises to avoid these obnoxious irritants.
Maybe businesses and manufacturers will take notice?
Sources for this article include:
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