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Is This Common Activity Poisoning You?

FragraceWidely used fragranced products, including those that claim to be "green", can give off chemicals not listed on the label. Some of these chemicals have been classified as toxic.

Twenty-five commonly used scented products were found to emit an average of 17 chemicals each. A total of 133 different chemicals were detected -- nearly a quarter of which are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law. Only one emitted compound was listed on a product label.

According to Science Daily:

"Manufacturers are not required to disclose any ingredients in cleaning supplies, air fresheners or laundry products, all of which are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Neither these nor personal care products, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, are required to list ingredients used in fragrances, even though a single 'fragrance' in a product can be a mixture of up to several hundred ingredients".

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you, or someone you know, are sensitive to fragrances, you know just how debilitating this problem can be.  I have some personal experience with this issue as someone I was very close to had severe chemical sensitivities.  Additionally, I was a member of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which is a physician group dedicated to caring for these types of individuals.

I treated many patients for chemical sensitivites in my decades of private practice. I also had to enforce a strict policy  where patients were asked to refrain from using scented products of any kind whenever they came to my clinic because my chemically sensitive patients would react to them.

Vast arrays of consumer products are now scented, from toiletries to cleaning products, to air fresheners and upholstery – even entire stores (known as full sensory branding) and all of these can trigger severe health problems. (For a list of symptoms that can signal a chemical sensitivity, please see this previous article.)

The latter received recent backlash as Teens Turning Green, a student-led group of advocates against toxic chemicals, spoke out against Abercrombie & Fitch's practice to infuse the air in their stores with a signature fragrance. In a recent Huffington Post article, Jessica Assaf, co-organizer and president of the group's New York University chapter stated:

"We as teens feel it is unacceptable that Abercrombie and Fitch customers are unknowingly being exposed to harmful chemicals by simply walking into the stores. 

We have decided to stand up for our health, and demand a change."

Certain hotels and even some cafe's have also started using this technique to 'entice' customers.

The fact that a significant percentage of people can't stand to be there, or that it could damage their customers' health whether or not they experience cute side effects, does not appear to be of any great concern to these companies...

As for the products you use in your home, or at work, I've often recommended using "green" or organic products, but according to this latest research, even organic scented products may emit toxic chemicals!

It just goes to show that even the organic label has its shortcomings in the absence of chemical regulation, and you can't necessarily trust "all-natural" or even organic claims made. 

Fragrances = Unregulated Toxins

The Cancer Prevention Coalition has previously warned that consumers are being exposed to fragrance ingredients that may cause cancer or fetal, hormonal or reproductive problems. But these fragrance ingredients are still unregulated – they don't even need to be listed on the label.

The ramifications of this lack of regulation are fairly obvious. According to Science Daily, about 20 percent of Americans suffer adverse health effects from air fresheners, for example. And sensitivity to perfumes and other kinds of fragrances is a very common problem.  

Perfumes and fragrances are the single largest category of cosmetic and personal care products, especially products used on your hair, face, and eyes.

Fragrances are also extensively used in a wide range of household cleaning products.

This latest study analyzed 25 commonly used, scented products, including:

  • Air fresheners (oils, sprays and solids)
  • Laundry products (detergent, fabric softeners, dryer sheets)
  • Personal care products (soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, shampoos)
  • Cleaning products (disinfectants, all-purpose cleaners, dish detergents)

About half of the products claimed to be green, organic, or natural.

Amazingly, the products tested emitted an average of 17 chemicals EACH, but only ONE compound was actually listed on the label.

All in all, the 25 products tested emitted a total of 133 different chemicals, about 25 percent of which are currently classified as toxic or hazardous under federal law, but only two of these 133 chemicals were disclosed on the label… And every single product emitted at least one chemical listed as toxic or hazardous!

The most common toxic emissions found in the 25 scented products included:

  • Limonene (citrus scent)
  • Alpha-pinene (pine scent)
  • Beta-pinene (pine scent)
  • Ethanol
  • Acetone

Eleven of the 25 products also emitted at least one probable carcinogen, such as:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • 1,4-dioxane -- a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant
  • Formaldehyde
  • Methylene chloride

So, how can they get away with this?

Simple… It's still very much an unregulated market. As Science Daily reports:

"Manufacturers are not required to disclose any ingredients in cleaning supplies, air fresheners or laundry products, all of which are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Neither these nor personal care products, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, are required to list ingredients used in fragrances, even though a single "fragrance" in a product can be a mixture of up to several hundred ingredients."

The fragrance industry is actually allowed to regulate itself, through a trade association known as the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). This association is responsible for conducting safety tests to determine the ingredients safe for use for their own industry. However, of the more than 5,000 different ingredients used by the fragrance industry, only about 1,300 chemicals have actually been tested and evaluated for safety.

Scented Candles Can Release Lead and Mercury

Scented candles have been shown to pose particular risks as they may release lead and mercury into the air that you breathe.

Particularly hazardous are the slow-burning types of candles that offer hours of inviting coziness. These types of candles often have shiny metal wicks made of pure lead, or a mixture containing lead. The lead particles are small and may float through the air for extended periods of time, then settle on furniture and carpet where they can be touched and ingested by children, adults, and pets.

In large amounts, candle emissions can harm your nervous system, heart, and circulatory system; particularly in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

Before purchasing candles, look to see if the core is made of metal. Also, look for candles made without additives, such as those made of bees wax.

Healthier Alternatives to Toxic Fragrances

The bottom line is, whenever you use a scented product of ANY kind, you're exposing yourself (and others) to a potentially hazardous cocktail of chemicals.

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to most commercially scented products.

For example, if you like the idea of using air fresheners, scented candles, or dryer sheets because you like the scent, then therapeutic essential oils are an excellent, and safe, alternative for all of these uses.

You can use essential oil in a diffuser to scent an entire room, or for a non-toxic alternative to dryer sheets, simply dab a drop or two of an essential oil onto a washcloth and put it in the dryer with your laundry.

Essential oils also have natural antibacterial qualities and can be added to your home-made cleaning solutions.

Keep in mind, however, that essential oils are not the same thing as fragrance oils.

Essential oils come from plants, while fragrance oils are artificially created and often contain synthetic chemicals. So, please be sure that the essential oil you use is of the highest quality and 100 percent pure.

Also note that essential oils should be used with caution, especially during pregnancy, as they can have a significant impact on your mind and emotions, even in tiny amounts. It's a good idea to consult someone knowledgeable in aromatherapy before experimenting with these oils.

As for perfume or cologne, please beware that many may actually be sickened by your scent. If you're worried about losing your mojo lest you're doused in fragrance, take a look at the latest research in this area, which shows that your natural scent is actually more seductive than perfume.

If you're still unconvinced, I strongly suggest you at least consider avoiding all artificial fragrances – to protect yourself and others -- and switching to natural scents made from essential oils instead.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Without Harmful Chemicals

The habit of using scented cleaning products is perhaps one of the most unnecessary ways to expose yourself to toxic chemicals. Tried and true items such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can get the job done just as well -- sometimes even better -- than their toxic counterparts.

Here's a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid castile soap
  • Organic essential oils (optional)
  • Mixing bowls
  • Spray bottles
  • Micro fiber cloths

For a great video on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please review the article: How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally.

For example, vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer, and cleaning mirrors and windows is as easy as adding a quarter-cup of white vinegar per quart of water.

Greener Cleaner

If you decide that the above cleaners are just not appropriate for your circumstances you may want to consider a commercial green cleaner.

Our team has realized that there is a major challenge for most to find safe commercial cleaners as the regulations are minimal, and many of the most popular and highly touted "green" cleaners are really not, as they are loaded with harmful chemicals.

That is why we spent over three years working on the best environmentally and personally safe cleaner on the market. I would encourage you to read more about our new Greener Cleaner if this is something you are interested in.

Regulations to Protect Your Health is in the Works...

Unregulated, un-tested and frequently toxic chemicals have become a public health problem that can no longer be ignored.

In April of this year, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced legislation to overhaul the "Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976" (TSCA), which would offer significant consumer protection if passed.

Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and industry would have to prove that the chemicals they use are in fact safe in order for them to remain on the market.

The US Senate is also currently reviewing the Household Product Labeling Act, which would require household cleaning products and similar products to bear labels that state "completely and accurately" all of the ingredients.

Together, these two laws would be a major step in the right direction.