What's that smell? If you use products with fragrances, more than likely you are so used to them that you don't even notice. But for those who use unscented products like we do, whether for other health reasons or because you are allergic to scented products, you probably notice when someone is using a scented body care or laundry care product.
Here are the facts:
- More than 2 million Americans have a fragrance allergy or sensitivity.
- 1 out of every 3 American children has allergies, asthma, ADHD or autism.
- Asthma and Allergies affect 1 out of 5 Americans.
Just a few months ago in August, our daughter, Sophie, was treated in the ER. She experienced these symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, coughing and then difficulty breathing with wheezing.
The culprit: artificial fragrances.
Does this sound familiar to you? Chances are, you or someone you know are bothered by scented products.
Fragrace allergies are on the rise and there are different types of allergic responses. Some people experience a skin allergy to artificial fragrances, where they develop an itchy rash. A respiratory reaction involves symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, difficulty breathing or worsening of asthma symptoms for those who are diagnosed with asthma. Some people may also develop a headache and even brain fog when exposed to artificial fragrances.
"Experts theorize that one reason fragrance allergies appear to be increasing is that fragrances themselves have become such a prominent part of our world. According to the AAD, some 5,000 different fragrances -- and countless other fragrance combinations -- are used in products today. And they can be a powerful, toxic brew."
Source: Fragrance Allergies: A sensory assault from WebMD.
What kind of products contain artificial fragrances?
- Perfume and cologne
- Body lotion and other body care products
- Hair products (shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, hairgel)
- Household cleaners and air freshners
- Laundry detergents and fabric softeners
Exposure to fragrances can happen by simply standing in the line at a store next to someone who has applied a strong perfume or washes their clothes in scented laundry detergent.
"Being forced to breathe in others' fragrance choices is a lot like being forced to breathe in secondhand smoke," Dalton tells WebMD. "It's a loss of control over your personal environment, and for some it can have serious personal health consequences."
Source: Fragrance Allergies: A sensory assault from WebMD.
What are these scents, anyways? Should anyone use them?
We weren't using them even before Sophie was born because we learned long ago how unhealthy they can be. But when friends/family/etc wore them, and it began to bother Sophie, we had to explain to them that they couldn't wear anything with fragrance around us. And then it begged the question, what are these chemicals and why are they so bad?
Most fragrances are synthesized, primarily from petroleum products. About 3,000 chemicals are used in the fragrance industry. Allergic reactions to fragrances are on the rise, increasing from 9 percent to about 12 to 13 percent of dermatitis patients over the last decade, according to Dr. Donald Belsito, a dermatologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center (as quoted in a February 2002 MSNBC article "Scents and Sensitivities").
Source: Fragrances: What Your Nose Needs to Know from Healthy Child, Healthy World.
Ongoing research and studies are being conducted and the recent findings are startling.
Findings, published online in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, show that air vented from machines using the top-selling scented liquid laundry detergent and scented dryer sheet contains hazardous chemicals, including two that are classified as carcinogens.
Analysis of the captured gases found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants, coming out of the vents. Of those, two chemicals -- acetaldehyde and benzene -- are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, for which the agency has established no safe exposure level.
Source: Scented Laundry Products Emit Hazardous Chemicals Through Your Dryer Vents by Scientific Daily.
Not only do artificial fragrances cause reactions in those with allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivities, but they are also very toxic for the entire world.
And are fragrances everywhere? Yes, it seems so.
In fact, when Sophie had to be in the hospital recently for a respiratory virus, I immediately noticed that the antibacterial handwash provided for patients/doctors/nurses was heavily scented.
Let's think about this for one second.
My daughter is in the hospital because she is sick, and artificial fragrances actually can trigger her to have an allergic reaction, which could make her worse.
I spoke up and told them in no uncertain terms that she cannot be around that.
This is enoucragement to speak up and make your voice heard, because that is what brings change.
The nurse was very accomdating. She brought in unscented soap and passed it on to the respiratory specialist and the next nurse on shift. I even had the respiratory specialist inform me that she uses her own unscented hand wash because the scented bothers her too. She encouraged me to file a comment card with the hospital, which I am currently working on now.
I have learned that change does not happen unless you speak up and take time to make your voice and your opinions heard. You do matter and your child matters.
This can be a controversial topic because people often are offended when you bring up that the products they use are unsafe. Regardless, more awareness must be spread because awareness is what makes the world safer for all of us to live in.
So what if someone around me uses it and it bothers me?
Tell them. Believe me, we've been around the block with this one. We've had to have family change their products to unscented so that they can visit with us. Some of them were offended. But if the alternative is that your or your child experiences breathing difficulties or other symptoms? There is no other way. So just speak up, tell them why it bothers you and help them understand. Help them not take it personally. It's not about them. It's because it makes someone else sick, really sick. And once they understand that, then it will make sense to them and they should be glad to comply.