I have a very low tolerance for perfume and cologne. I can’t stand when I can smell it on people, whether it’s men or women. It’s not only that when someone is wearing fragrance near me, I feel like I am inhaling poison, but also that I find it rude. I mean how inconsiderate of a person to spray themselves with artificial fragrance and then get on a crowded bus or subway? Not everyone likes their scent of choice, and many people are allergic to artificial fragrance since it is a toxic substance, yet they’re exposing others to it against their will.
Okay, if you’re reading this you might want to tell me to stop sipping hater-ade, and that most people don’t have a problem with fragrance, they like it, it’s sexy, etc. But if you know about the health implications of artificial fragrance, one soon learns that it is neither sexy nor smart and it would be foolish to continue to use it.
Fragrance is not limited to just perfume and cologne. It includes hairspray, and can be an additive to mainstream lotions, cosmetics, shampoos, deodorants, etc.
If you look on the ingredient list of any of the above mentioned products and ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ is listed, that could mean that it contains a bunch of hidden hazardous chemicals that you are inhaling all day and are seeping into your system. Companies are not required to list these chemicals because fragrance is protected by trade secret laws which do not require them to disclose everything that is put into the product.
The Environmental Working Group conducted a study called “Not So Sexy” in which they examined 17 name brand perfumes and found all of them contained secret chemicals not listed in the ingredients. The chemicals found raise health concerns such as immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. In fact, if you go to EWG’s Skin Deep Database and search for any popular perfume or body spray, it will most likely receive a rating in the red zone (high hazard). I like to do this for fun after I hear girls talking about what spray or perfume they use.
So what is immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity?
Immunotoxicity, according to Scorecard, refers to adverse effects on the immune system from exposure to chemical substances. This is concerning since a malfunctioning immune system can lead to increased frequency and severity of infectious diseases. Immunotoxicity also refers to chemically induced allergic reactions such as asthma or rhinitis. So, it seems that if you have a habit of using fake fragrance, hairspray or other personal care products with fragrance, not only do you risk getting sick more often but if you do get sick or come down with a disease it will be worse than necessary.
Endocrine disruption means that the body’s hormones and cells are not able to communicate properly. When this happens, the result could be a negative impact on the body’s crucial functions such as; body growth, response to stress, sexual development and behavior, production and utilization of insulin, rate of metabolism, intelligence and behavior, and the ability to reproduce (from endocrinedisruption.org). Basically, it seems there are chemicals in fake fragrance which could possibly inhibit the proper function of hormones in any area ranging from growth to intelligence (!?). (Insert bimbo joke here…)
A common chemical used in fragrance are phthalates which are endocrine disruptors. They are a class of common chemicals used in many household products and plastics. They are related to reproductive toxicity because a pregnant woman passes these chemicals onto her unborn baby, and this may cause sexual deformation and demasculinization of boys.
This information can be found in the book, Toxin Toxout by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith and this is how they explain it (paraphrasing):
- Phthalates are absorbed by cells, including those of the pituitary gland.
- The pituitary gland is responsible for directing functions of the body. It instructs glands to release hormones to trigger everything involved in the development of the body such as the nervous system, brain, and sexual functions.
- When phthalates are ingested, the hormone responsible for triggering testosterone is not produced. This causes testosterone levels drop, a consequence of which is the sexual malformation and the feminization of male bodies.
Demasculinization refers to smaller penis size, incomplete testicular descent, sperm damage and also less masculine behavior.
According to an article from Environmental Health News on phthalates in moms and babies, phthalates also have a negative impact on the sexual development of female babies as well. This article refers to a study with rodents that shows phthalates block the functions of testosterone and estrogen resulting in feminized males and infertile females.
And if that isn’t enough, chemicals in artificial fragrance can be carcinogenic, neurotoxic (affect the proper function of the brain) and result in deep fatigue, depression, confusion and inability to concentrate.
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It’s ironic because perfume and cologne and are intended to be worn in order to allure the opposite sex, yet modern fragrances contribute to the destruction of healthy sexuality. Even though the concern is mostly for pre-natal development, we should still refrain from using such products if we aren’t pregnant, or planning to be because whatever we put on our bodies inevitably goes back into the environment, which affects everyone. Not only that, but it lowers the immune system. So if you’re wearing it around someone who is sick, you are forcing them to inhale the poison that you decided to spray on yourself. It’s probably just as bad as smoking a cigarette in public.
So don’t be suckered into wearing artificial fragrance by misleading, glamorous commercials and celebrity endorsements. Think about what you are putting on your body. Strong fragrance is not classy anyways. It’s like this quote that I heard once: “Fragrance should be a gift for the person who is lucky enough to get close to you, NOT an announcement that you have walked into the room.”