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Toxic Scent: Synthetic Fragrance Is The New Secondhand Smoke

Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Hazards, Issues & Diseases, Health with 0 Comments

By Marilee Nelson | Branch Basics

Surely You're Familiar With One Of These Scenarios:

The Scented Candle That Won't Go Away 

You walk into a store full of scented candles. They smell so fresh and lovely, but a few minutes later, your nose starts to itch and you are starting to get a headache. You notice that you’re having a harder time focusing on anything and you start to feel light-headed.  You end up buying a candle and leaving, feeling better as soon as you walk out the door. A few days later, the smell of your new candle is on everything: your coat, your car, the living room – even when it’s not lit. A headache just won’t go away and you start to feel worn down and tired.


The Mist That Never Disappears

You spray a fine mist of air freshener all over that musty pile of backpacks in the mudroom. Your second-grader grabs his bag, now slightly wet and sweet-smelling, and starts to do homework, but is having trouble focusing. He’s getting a headache and starting to whine about wanting to play outside. Meanwhile, the fake scent of flowers dissipates as it numbs sensory receptors in your nose and starts driving your puppy a little crazy. Eventually, you can’t smell it anymore, but you’ve ingested it through your nose, lungs, and skin.

Fragrance Is the New Secondhand Smoke

If you’ve experienced anything like this and connected the dots, you know how insidious synthetic fragrance can be. It’s only human to seek out pleasant smells and to try to eliminate unattractive scents from our environments. However, the immediate and long-term effects of synthetic  fragrance exposure is hazardous to our health. Simply adding a pleasant smelling chemical to our bodies and air will not only affect our own health, but the health of the people (and pets!) who share the air with us.

Related Article: Beware: Synthetic Scents Could Cause Cancer, Asthma, Kidney Damage and More

The History of “Fragrance”

Trying to link the past with the present fragrance industry unfortunately reveals a radical disconnect and departure from the original therapeutic purpose and use of pure essential oils. Today’s synthetic fragrances are a far cry from the healing balms treasured so much by the ancient world that some were worth more than gold.   Instead of being medicinal, today’s fragranced products are associated with diabetes, obesity, autism, ADD/ADHD and hormone disruption.1 Sadly, the person wearing or using the fragrance is not the only one affected. Synthetic fragrance affects air quality for those sharing the space as well.

From pure to perverse, it is twisted irony that the word  fragrance has now gained infamy as the new secondhand smoke when the etymology of the word perfume comes from the Latin phrase, “per” meaning “through” and “fumus” meaning “smoke”.

The emerging awareness of this very “volatile” situation reveals problems much more pervasive and dangerous than tobacco smoke.2 Even washing clothes in detergents and fabric softeners containing fragrances releases toxic chemicals onto the skin and into the air all day long.  At night, sleeping in pajamas and on sheets washed in the same toxic materials has the same effect.  Because of this, people are awash in fragrances 24 hours each day.

Fragrance Is the New Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Fragrance

When people go to a public place, they are sharing what is now being called “secondhand fragrance”. This is the combination of harmful chemicals being released into the public air space from air fresheners, cleaning products, and scented candles, plus all the products people are wearing (from hair spray, shampoo, clothes, to perfume, etc). Everyone is involuntarily breathing contaminated air even if they choose to not wear fragranced products. It’s time to clear the air and prioritize human health, not economic interest. Already, cities like Detroit have created Fragrance Free Zones, where perfume and aftershave are discouraged. There is a growing tension between two fiercely opposing camps: the National Perfumers Guild and Fragrance Houses versus the “Anti-Fragrance Activists.”3

Related Article: Dangers of Synthetic Scents Include Cancer, Asthma, Kidney Damage and More

What could be wrong with a beautiful fragrance? Nothing, if it is a genuine and authentic plant derived, unadulterated essential oil or an organic, wildcrafted scent oil. These oils have been effectively used for fragrance throughout history. However, since World War II, inexpensive, synthetic chemicals can produce fragrances that are abundantly available and can be terribly toxic.

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