Fragrance and Chemical Sensitivity
People are becoming more familiar with the term, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity but many don’t understand what it really is or realize that we are all at risk of developing it. basically, MCS is the body’s natural, allergic reaction following exposure to a variety of chemicals and toxins. This exposure can be from inhalation, ingestion and/or the topical application of chemicals commonly found in the products we use every day.
MCS can develop slowly over time as chemicals build up in your body, or develop suddenly from a single harsh exposure to chemicals like new carpeting in your home, a recently painted wall or the use of pesticides in your yard. Toxic chemicals are also ingested in the form of food colors, preservatives and various food additives. Chemicals, (especially petroleum based elements) present in personal care products like shampoo, conditioner, soaps, facial creams, sunscreens and cosmetics, are absorbed into the skin which carries them into the blood stream.
The more than 48 million men, women, and children with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity experience allergy-like symptoms ranging from minor annoyances to life-threatening responses. MCS can manifest as skin rashes, burning eyes, nausea, light headedness, headaches, sleeping problems, and digestive system disorders. The long-term effects include neurological problems and peripheral nerve damage, diabetes, arthritis, vascular disorders, including life threatening blood clotting; nutritional deficiencies, asthma, and sometimes already cancer.
Let’s analyze fragrance as just one shared Chemical Sensitivity cause:
- Fragrances go into the body by inhalation, the mouth by ingestion and the skin by absorption.
- There are more than 5,000 different fragrances in the products we use on a daily basis, however only about 1,300 of them have been tested for safety. Those tests did not include respiratory, neurological, or systemic effects.
- “Fragrance” on a product label is considered a trade secret, meaning the manufacturer is not required to clarify the chemical makeup of the fragrance.
- Six hundred or more chemical elements may be used to create a single fragrance.
- Approximately 95% of the chemicals used in fragrances today are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic responses.
- The great majority of the chemicals in fragrances be make up of consistently volatile organic compounds that are known to be respiratory irritants.
- Inhaling fragrances can cause circulatory changes and electrical activity in the brain, triggering migraine headaches, the inability to concentrate, dizziness and fatigue.
- A recent Environmental Working Group study found two synthetic musks in the cord blood of newborn babies. These musks have been associated with toxicity to the endocrine system.
- A pregnant woman’s use of some fragrances may expose her growing fetus to diethyl phthalate (DEP), a shared perfume solvent connected to abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys and sperm damage in adult men.
- Children may be more prone to the effects of fragrances because of their smaller size, their higher respiratory rate, and their thinner skin.
Fragrances have been used throughout history so why are people only recently experiencing from their ill affects? Until the 20th century, perfumes were made from natural elements derived directly from spices, flowers, plants, herbs and animals. The Egyptian’s were the first to use scents of cinnamon and honey with which to anoint their bodies. The use of fragrance played a huge role in daily Egyptian life, from burying the dead to personal hygiene, making fragrance a valuable commodity more precious than gold.
During the 1900’s, advancements in chemical technology along with a rapidly growing population and a rising need for perfumes and fragrance, led manufacturers to turn to inexpensive synthetic elements in lieu of natural plant and flower extracts that were far more costly and time consuming. In 1989, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recognized 884 poisonous substances (chemicals) used in the fragrance industry. however, to this day, when you see the information fragrance on a product label, the chemicals used to create it are considered a “trade secret”. What you don’t know will hurt you!
When you use perfume, body lotion or soap made with synthetic fragrances, you are exposing yourself and others to powerful, unhealthy chemicals. The fragrances you use may not adversely affect you, but they may cause those around you moment responses including headaches, migraines, runny nose and eyes, breathing difficulty and sinus problems. already people who aren’t particularly chemically sensitive report discomfort when exposed to perfumes. As a consequence, many businesses across the United States and Canada, at the request of their employees, are voluntarily creating fragrance-free policies.