Fragrance: Aroma or Stench?


By Christine Shahin

Looking at the ingredient list of your favorite fragrance is a list of unpronounceable words. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 14 secret ingredients not listed on labels, called trade secrets, created mostly from synthetic chemicals; it is legal for trade secrets to be exempt from labeling.

The word fragrance usually denotes a chemical combination, anywhere between 30 to 300 different chemicals to create a scent that encourages you to purchase a product again and again. Fragrances are a common ingredient in household and personal-care product

Fragrances may seem harmless; some of there less troublesome issues are eye, nose and throat irritants while their more detrimental effects are linked to damage of liver, kidney, thyroid, immune and reproductive systems.

Almost all fragrances are stabilized with phthalates: plasticizers and fragrance carriers that are banned in children’s toys, but still used in a wide array of consumer products, especially those containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride yes in household cleaners and personal care products!)
Phthalates are commonly found in nail polishes, in hair sprays for their ability to make these products flexible; they are also in the vast majority of fragrances, to stabilize, or “fix” perfumes making their scent last longer.

Children are especially vulnerable to phthalates; a developing baby is extremely defenseless to the effects of toxic chemicals as they develop so quickly in mother’s womb, and that growth is easily influenced by toxic chemicals. Unlike adults, babies have a very limited ability to rid their bodies of foreign toxins.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that higher prenatal exposures to phthalates significantly increased the odds of motor and behavioral developmental delay during the preschool years. The Center for Health Environment and Justice summarizes the mounting evidence against phthalates in “This is Your Brain on PVC.” The facts on trends in learning disabilities are startling:

• Learning and developmental disabilities appears to be rising, affecting about one in six children in the U.S.

• Children in special education programs classified with learning disabilities increased 191 percent from 1977 to 1994.

• Reported cases of autism spectrum disorder have increased tenfold since the early 1990s, now one in a hundred American children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed childhood psychiatric disorder in the United States. Evidence indicates prevalence may be as high as 17% for all school children.

• There has been a six-fold increase in ADHD between the years 1985 (0.7 million cases) and 2000 (4-5 million cases) in the U.S.

Many detractors say these numbers are inflated, that we are better today at identifying these problems in children, which may be true in part, but the numbers are alarming and too staggering to dismiss.

There is Good News since phthalates don’t accumulate in our bodies; when the source of exposure is removed, levels decrease quickly.

Make a difference for you and your family; read labels and skip products with “fragrance” and phthalates. When purchasing items such as shower curtains, food wrap, flooring, made with PVC plastic (vinyl) remember the communities and workplaces where these products are manufactured bear the biggest toxic body burden and see if you can use something else.

As printed in the Utica Phoenix Nov. 2011




Beautiful You ~ Naturally is a monthly column for the Utica Phoenix focusing on natural beauty options from Garden Concoctions to Salon Industry Products sprinkled with updates on legislation pertaining to personal care  products written by Christine Shahin, Licensed Cosmetologist, owner of Faces of Astarte & collaborator of Expressions Eco Salon for All Ethnicities IN Little Falls NY,