Here is an excerpt written by David Suzuki and published in Toronto’s City Post which addresses the issues of fragrances in our products.
These fragrances are in almost every type of personal-care product, as well as laundry detergents and cleaning products. Even products labelled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” can contain fragrance, usually with a masking agent to prevent the brain from perceiving odour. The negative effects of some fragrance ingredients can be immediately apparent. For example, fragrance chemicals can trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and migraines. Researchers have even found evidence suggesting that exposure to some of these chemicals can exacerbate or even contribute to the development of asthma in children.
Other chemicals may have harmful effects that don’t show up right away. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a cheap and versatile chemical widely used in cosmetic fragrances to make the scent last longer. But it is associated with a range of problems. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has listed it as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function.
Phthalates have been linked to early puberty in girls, reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus (when the mother is exposed during pregnancy). Health Canada has moved to ban six phthalates in children’s toys, after evidence showed that prolonged exposure can cause liver or kidney failure, but it has no plans to regulate the chemicals in cosmetics.
DEP is also listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, based on evidence that it can be toxic to wildlife and the environment. Fragrance chemicals often harm the environment. Some compounds in synthetic “musk,” which wash off our bodies and find their way into nature, remain in the environment for a long time and can build up in the fatty tissues of aquatic animals. Canada’s regulations don’t measure up to standards in other parts of the world. The European Union restricts many fragrance ingredients and requires warning labels on products if they contain any of 26 allergens commonly used as cosmetic fragrances.
While scientists can duplicate the fragrance of essential oils, they have so far been unable to duplicate the benefits. Using lavender as an example, there are many lavender fragrance oils on the market. They all smell like lavender and are long lasting. Only lavender essential oil, can offer the fresh aroma of lavender plus a great deal of healing properties that may help with symptoms such as coughs, insomnia, hyperactivity, arthritis, muscle aches, rheumatism, acne, sunburn, wounds, insect bites, burns and irritability.