Perfumes and fragrances are all around us. We find them in perfumes and colognes, of course, but also in laundry and cleaning products, personal care products, air fresheners and scented candles, even in cat litters and trash bags. What you may not realize is that these fragrances don't come from natural plants and flowers. They come from petroleum chemicals.
There are over eighty-thousand petrochemicals in use around us every day. More than five-thousand fragrance chemicals are used in personal care products alone. While the label might simply say a product contains "fragrance," that fragrance can contain over six-hundred synthetic petrochemicals!
People who use scented products don't realize that their noses go numb under the constant barrage of fragrances. So they use more and more, smelling very little while they "gas-out" everyone around them. Just as a smoker doesn't comprehend how bad their second-hand smoke smells to non-smokers, most people don't realize that the chemicals they outgas from their clothes and body can be overwhelming to others.
Maybe you realize this, but simply don't care. Why should you? It smells good and it's safe, isn't it? And the minority who are bothered by fragrances are just neurotic control freaks, right?
Wrong! There are over forty-million people with some degree of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and the numbers grow daily. People with MCS are anywhere from 100 to 1000 times more sensitive to these chemicals than are healthy people. This explains why you might be able to wear fragrances and feel fine, while a coworker, family member or total stranger across a room can feel sick from it.
But do you really feel fine? Do you get headaches, body aches, feel tired, grumpy, or have trouble sleeping? Do you have asthma, breathing or digestion problems? An easy way to test your sensitivity to fragrance chemicals is to spend some time in the detergent aisle at the supermarket. Notice how you feel. Do you hold your breath out, maybe have trouble swallowing, feel itchy or irritable? How do you feel a few minutes later?
Manufacturers are not required to list the specific chemicals in their fragrances because they have convinced government agencies that these ingredients are trade secrets. But independent laboratory analyses of many fragrance products reveal the frightening truth:
Many of these chemicals cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, immune and reproductive systems. Many more have been classified as neurotoxins, meaning they cause damage to the brain and nervous systems. Some of these chemicals have even been labelled by the EPA as toxic waste! The Material Safety Data Sheets for these chemicals come with warnings to avoid contact with skin and avoid breathing their vapors, and yet they're in products that you apply to your skin and inhale! Few have been tested for their safety in combination with one another.
When you inhale fragrance chemicals or allow them to touch your skin, they are absorbed into your bloodstream and deposited into your tissues and organs. Many are accumulated in fat cells and held there for decades, building up with each repeated exposure. As the body breaks them down they form new chemicals, all in combinations that have not been tested for safety.
Our bodies were never designed to process so many chemicals every day of our lives, and frankly, it can be overwhelmed. A short list of chemical overload symptoms can include headaches, nausea, pain, and fatigue; depression, anxiety, irritability or mood swings; difficulty sleeping, concentrating or remembering things; difficulty breathing or swallowing, frequent asthma attacks, and even seizures.
If you have any of these conditions, check to see how many products in your home and at work contain synthetic fragrances and other petrochemicals. How many people around you are using fragrance products?
We have discussed the dangerous fragrance chemicals in everyday products, and the symptoms of chemical overload, called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS. In this article, we'll discuss easy, healthful alternatives to toxic chemicals. There are tremendous benefits when you make the switch to natural fragrances:
You'll not only feel better and reduce your risk of developing cancer, you'll also show kindness and courtesy for others, help reduce industrial pollution, and save money while you create a safer environment around yourself. Interested? Read on...
Switch to natural cosmetics, hair-care and personal products. You want products without parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances. You'll be reducing your exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, lowered sperm counts and birth defects. Your hair and skin will become noticibly healthier.
Switch to natural perfume oils made from genuine essential oils and absolutes. Most perfumes and colognes, no matter how expensive, are largely synthetic. Take time to read labels and be wary of any label that says "fragrances" or "blended fragrances". While some of those products might be safe, most of them will contain synthetics. A good store will provide inexpensive perfume samples so that you can test your reactions before buying a full bottle. If you're switching to natural perfumes because someone around you is sensitive to fragrances, take the samples to that person and let them see how they feel.
Switch to non-toxic laundry and cleaning products. Quality brands include Seventh Generation and Natural Choices. Use baking soda instead of scouring powders. Bronner's Liquid Soaps from the natural food store are inexpensive and work well for dishes and many other uses. Plain old white vinegar disinfects as well as bleach and makes a wonderful cleaner for floors, countertops and mirrors. It even kills mold!
Stop using fabric softener and dryer sheets altogether! Clothing, sheets and towels treated with fabric softeners and dryer sheets are among the worst triggers for people with MCS, and can affect them from far away. These products coat your clean fabrics with cancer-causing chemicals. As your body heat warms them, the chemicals melt into your skin and are absorbed into your body. As their toxic fragrances waft in the air, you breathe them in, where they go into your bloodstream via the lungs. You will need to clean your dryer with vinegar and wash your clothes repeatedly with Borax to remove the fabric softener residue.
Throw away your paraffin candles- scented or otherwise. Paraffin is made from the sludge at the bottom of oil refinery barrels. When it burns, the black smoke it emits is basically deisel exhaust! Use natural, honey-scented beeswax candles instead. Beeswax candles create healthful negative ions and actually clean the air in your room! While they cost more initially, they burn much longer than paraffin, with a brighter flame.
Replace your air fresheners with Natural Essential Oils. The fragrances in air fresheners come from petroleum, not nature. They're like inviting a steady stream of deisel exhaust into your home! Real essential oils have aromatherapy benefits that synthetic chemicals can never match. You can use essential oils with lightbulb scent rings, electric diffusers, and candle warmers with beeswax candles.
Written by: Siri Amrit Kaur Khalsa
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