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Health and wellbeing | 21.01.2016

Fume off! The unspoken dangers of perfumes and fragrances

Just like an episode of Mad Men, remember when you could smoke in restaurants, planes, buses, hospitals and anywhere else you pleased? Ah, they were the good old days. . . cough, splutter - not! 

It took a long time for laws to be introduced to prevent smoking in enclosed public places, but most of us would agree it was the right thing to do.

This may sound a little OTT, but I'd like to see the same laws applied to the use of synthetic fragrance in enclosed spaces to minimise exposure to the toxic chemicals emitted from perfume.

Now, if you’re a diehard perfume fan, hear me out.

You may love how your perfume makes you feel, but have you thought about how it makes other people who come into close contact with you feel? Just a little whiff of synthetic fragrance can trigger significant reactions ranging from asthma attacks to headaches, chest tightness, wheezing, nausea and irritated airways.

Synthetic fragrance is one of the most frequently identified allergens. I know people who will avoid coming in close contact with anyone they suspect is wearing perfume so as not to trigger their allergies.

I don't know about you, but I have to hold my breath if I walk through the perfume counter in a department store or in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket so as not to get a headache, and don’t even get me started on women who wear strong perfume or men covered in cologne or aftershave on planes or in lifts. If I go out on a date, and all I get confronted with is a toxic cloud, it's a deal breaker. Yucko!

And, it’s not just perfume that makes people sick, either. It’s deodorant, fragranced hair and body care products, cleaning products, air fresheners and laundry detergents. What also concerns me is young adolescents wearing stynx and repulse to try and allure the opposite sex instead of relying on good old pheromones.

All perfumed and fragranced products are made with a concoction of up to 200 or more chemical constituents, many of which haven't been proven safe for human exposure. Phthalates are used in 75 per cent of these products and have been linked to disruption of the endocrine system, which can lead to a myriad of serious health problems.

We absorb the chemicals in fragrances through our skin, nose and mouth. Every chemical we inadvertently ingest has an effect on the body. It has to filter out as many of the toxins as it can, but some are harder than others to eliminate and some stick around and build up in our system over time. Our livers and kidneys are already burdened.

It's no wonder cancer and autoimmune illnesses have become so prevalent. We're swimming in a sea of stinky stuff and we've no idea what it’s doing to our health. Frustratingly, our governments are reluctant to do anything about it.

Under Australian law, the chemical components of a fragrance are considered a trade secret and don't need to be disclosed. That means when you see the words ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on a cosmetic or a skin care product, it could contain any number of chemicals from a pool of more than 5,000 used by the beauty industry.

Due to this trade secret loophole, cosmetic companies can get away with putting a plethora of potentially neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals into their products which not only affects the user, but everyone within sniffing radius.

I think it stinks that public health is compromised in order to protect corporate secrets.

I also think it stinks that celebrities use their high public profiles to endorse synthetic perfumes or bring their own perfume brands out just to rake in the big bucks. There's no thought given to the effects on people’s health whatsoever. It’s just all about money and image.

Note to Britney, J.Lo, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Beyonce, Kate Moss, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and all the fans who buy their perfumes – synthetic perfume doesn’t make you sexier.

Being healthy and happy and living a clean life in tune with nature does. If you like to have a signature scent, use a tiny dab of certified organic essential oils. But remember, even oils can be overpowering if you use too much.

If you use Mukti Organics you’ll know all of our products are lightly scented using only certified organic essential oils, which makes sense and gives you peace of mind as well. 

Does synthetic fragrance turn you off too? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

@bymukti

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