Manufacturers prioritize scent over safety in clothing production, jeopardizing consumer health

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

toxic-chemicals(NaturalHealth365)  Has anyone ever told you that you should wash all your newly bought clothes before you wear them?  The advice is sound: mass-manufactured clothing is often doused with toxic chemicals ranging from anti-wrinkle agents to stain-repellents to color-fasteners, and exposure to these substances, which are derived from things like petroleum and tar (despite how “good” they may smell), can trigger short- and long-term health issues.

Another reason to wash your new clothes – and perhaps even re-think which clothes you’re willing to purchase and bring into your wardrobe – is artificial scent.  Evidence reveals that popular manufacturers routinely add synthetic fragrances to their clothing, presumably to increase profits.  But with little oversight, are clothing companies putting their customers at undue risk from these chemical exposures?

Smelling “nice,”… but at what price? Documentary film reveals odorous truth behind fragrances and clothing

“After purchasing brand new pajamas for his young daughters as a Christmas gift,” reads the caption of a video posted to YouTube, “single father Jon Whelan is troubled when opening the packaging releases a foul odor.  Determined to uncover the source of this mysterious stench and whether it poses a health risk to his daughters, Whelan quickly discovers that manufacturers and retailers in the U.S. have no obligation to reveal chemicals used in their products, even if those chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive damage.”

Released in 2015, Whelan’s first documentary film Stink! reveals the astounding and smelly truth of the use of fragrances in products made and sold in America.  He presents evidence showing how manufacturers are free to add nearly any chemicals they want to their products in order to boost profits, reduce costs, and even mask the unpleasant odors of their products – despite the fact that many toxic chemicals used for the nebulous term “fragrance” are thought to harm human health.

Contrast this practice to those found in many European countries, Children’s Health Defense points out, where regulators exhibit far more precautionary principles regarding chemical usage among its manufacturers.  If a chemical is thought to be unsafe, European regulators will take steps to phase it out.  But in the United States, governing agencies tend to take the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) route far more liberally, and assume chemicals are safe until proven otherwise, a process that can take years or even decades … and cause untold damage in the meantime.

While some positive steps have been taken in the U.S. – including the infamous Proposition 65 passed in California in 1986, which requires manufacturers to notify consumers when any of 800 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects are found in their products – America seems to still have a long ways to go as far as protecting its citizens, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and increasing manufacturer transparency and accountability.

If you have a half hour to spare, check out the trailer and clips from the film Stink! below:

The potential dangers of fragrances that manufacturers want you to ignore

If you think you’re the only one who would like to see fewer fragrances sprayed all over your consumer products, think again.  According to a 2016 paper published in Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, survey data has indicated that more than 50% of the U.S. population would “prefer that workplaces, health care facilities, and professionals, hotels, and airplanes were fragrance-free.”

And for good reason!  An estimated 35% of the American population has experienced health problems when exposed to scented products.  What kind of health problems, you might wonder?  According to Children’s Health Defense, symptoms associated with exposure to artificial fragrances can trigger adverse health effects in both adults and children, including dizziness, migraines and headaches, hay fever-like symptoms, confusion, weakness, muscle aches, heart palpitations, vomiting, nausea, congestion, asthma attacks, gastrointestinal problems, endocrine disruption, neurological problems, breathing and respiratory problems and contact dermatitis.

These toxic chemicals can have both short- and long-term health impacts, particularly thanks to the cumulative effects of repeat and widespread exposure.

So, what can you do as a consumer?  Choosing products labeled fragrance-free or organic is a good start.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “fragrance-free” specifically means that fragrance chemicals or masking scents are not used in a product, whereas “unscented” simply means that the product likely contains chemicals that neutralize or mask odors.  And if you do want scented things, look for products that are scented with natural materials, such as organic essential oils.

Finally, remember to wash your newly bought clothes with a non-toxic laundry detergent that you trust, especially if you or your loved ones have sensitive skin.

Sources for this article include:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments