Truth be told we live in a world where scent is EVERYWHERE. No matter where you go the scent of someone’s laundry detergent, perfume, shampoo or lotion seems to fill the air. Why do scents seem to hang around so long? And what exactly are they made of? Many of us aren’t aware of the true facts of synthetic fragrances because this is information we have to research in order to find the truth. Unless you’re really looking for what’s in a product, you may never know because the information is not advertised. No, the information about the exact contents of synthetic fragrances is made public by researchers who are trying to find causes of health ailments within our society.
If you’ve ever wondered how laundry detergent can smell like rain, it’s not because they’ve added actual rain, it’s because chemists have created the scent with chemicals, most of them derived from petroleum products. This is why it is imperative to avoid these fragrance filled products when we can.
Why Synthetic Fragrances Should Be Avoided
Synthetic fragrances are made up of different chemicals. Up to 95% of those chemicals are made from petroleum products, or crude oil. Let that sink in for a moment. The second largest component in synthetic fragrance is phthalates. Phthalates have been banned from some plastic toys and kitchenware in the most recent years and there is a push to reduce the use of them even more.
Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone activity while Petrochemicals (petroleum based products) have been linked to birth defects, nervous system disorders, allergies and cancer.
Many of the synthetic fragrances are in products we put on skin or that are embedded into our clothing, which sits directly on our skin. When our skins comes into contact with these chemicals that are synthetic fragrances, our skin immediately absorbs them and carries them to our bloodstream.
Airborne scents are created to be long-lasting by companies and their chemists. These toxin-filled scents are made so they don’t easily break down, but are carried throughout the air. We are breathing these chemicals in and filling our lungs with the synthetic fragrances. THis can cause long term effects on the respiratory system as well as cause long term allergies and asthma in children.
Those who are at a higher risk for being affected negatively by synthetic fragrances and and the chemicals contained in them are pregnant women, babies and children, who’s systems absorb more of these chemicals.
Where Synthetic Fragrances are Found
Honestly, synthetic fragrance seems to be everywhere. The list could be endless, as they seem to be in most personal care products and home products.
The names of these fragrance additives often is listed as “Fragrance”, however it isn’t even always disclosed on the packaging. Most likely anything that advertises a scent of any kind has synthetic fragrance and the chemicals that come with that in the product.
Why Aren't Chemicals Disclosed?
Our US government has imposed a Trade Secret Act that protects companies and manufacturers from disclosing the ingredients that make up their scent. Originally, this act was lobbied and created to protect secret formulas made from flowers and oils. The days of natural scents has long passed and this Trade Secret law now protects companies in their use of toxic chemicals and products.
And why aren’t natural flowers and oils used any longer? Well, sometimes they are used. Any product that boasts of scents derived from natural plants uses flowers and oils in their formulas as opposed to chemicals. But overall, most companies do not use natural options because the chemicals are much cheaper to use and create and they last longer in the air, which as consumers we’ve been told we want.
How to Avoid These Chemicals
First, anytime you can, opt for unscented products and products advertised as “Fragrance Free.” Now, a word to this claim: This does not mean they have not added synthetic fragrances. A cleaner made with toxic chemicals may have a terrible smell. In order to neutralize this odor, more chemicals may be added to the product. It may still not have an odor, but chemicals have been added to create a neutral and unscented experience.
However, overall, finding products with this advertised on the package is going to be your best bet.
Second, instead of covering up the odors in your home with candles, wax melts or air fresheners, use my recipe below to clean the air and remove the scent, not cover it up.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.