What smells good can actually make your health bad. Here’s how to sniff out and eliminate those problem-causing products before they harm your health. Keep reading the following Buzzle write-up to know more…
By Lana Christian
Airwaves keep pulsing with nonstop commercials on products to make cleaning easier or your home smell fresher. What they don’t tell you, can hurt you. So let’s get past the marketing hype, and talk about what this really does for (or against) your home environment.
Pollen, bacteria, and mold get the most attention when people talk about improving air quality. But those aren’t necessarily the biggest “baddies” in your air. Unknowingly, you may be making your air much worse to breathe.
The culprit? Synthetic fragrances! They’re made from the same petrochemical process that produces gasoline, and can wreak havoc on your body.
Your body filters and breaks down toxins every day, mostly through your liver and kidneys. You can’t help but breathe car fumes, manufacturing exhaust, the secretary’s cologne, and whatever the cleaning crew used to scrub the office bathrooms. Normally, the body gets rid of this stuff at a faster pace than it accumulates in the body. But, with the increasing plethora of synthetic organics on the market, daily cellular “detox” is harder to do. When your body can’t keep up with it, you get sick.
You may not link a headache or unusual tiredness to the scented oil candle you lit, or the sweet-smelling toilet cleaner you’re using. You may dismiss your child’s increased inattentiveness, mood swings, or “jitterbugs” to his/her age, school woes, or a sugar high. But research shows that synthetic fragrances are making their way into our bodies, and are not getting out. When they don’t, they settle in the fat cells of various organs, causing a wide range of problems from diarrhea to memory loss, to muscle pain, and permanent nerve damage.
Children, the elderly, people with allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, or degenerative nerve diseases (MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s) are at greatest risk of being affected adversely by synthetic fragrances.
So it makes sense to get rid of as much of this stuff in your house as possible. What will surprise you is how much of it you have. Here’s the acid test: read the labels of all your cleaning products, laundry products, makeup, shaving cream, body soap, hair gel, hand lotion, and all other self-care items in your house. If the label includes an ingredient that simply says “fragrance,” that’s a synthetic fragrance.
Synthetic fragrances are trade secrets (like the formula for making Coca-Cola), so manufacturers don’t have to list their ingredients. By its own admission, the perfume industry says that it’s tested less than a third of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances for human safety. Growing evidence shows the risks that these pose to our health. Even healthy adults who rigorously exercise and “eat right”, have at least 200 chemicals of this kind floating around in their bodies.
Water treatment plants can’t completely remove synthetic fragrances from soap, detergents and fabric softeners. Recent National Geographic studies reveal, that these chemicals have made it through the water supply to the ocean, where sea life is already being affected.
A bar of soap may contain a fragrance that’s comprised 50 chemicals. But a cologne’s fragrance typically contains 200. Buy a bottle of “jasmine laced with lemongrass and a hint of musk” and … well, you do the math. Now, back to all your household stuff.
How many cleaning products do you have? (Include bathroom cleaners, air fresheners, dusting products, carpet cleaner, laundry detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets in that mix.) How many of those say “fragrance?” Check out your hand soap, body wash, lotions, shampoo, shaving cream, skin bracer, deodorant and the like. Read the labels. How many items of makeup do you have? Guess what’s in all of them. Add up everything that says “fragrance.” You’ll be shocked.
Now, what can you eliminate or switch? My recommendation is “as many as you can.” You don’t need 12 household cleaners; you need a couple. And if you want to go totally “natural,” baking soda and vinegar are the best, safest cleaners around. If you resolve to buy products without fragrances in them, look for items that say “fragrance free.” “Unscented” items often have extra chemicals in them – the chemicals that normally exude fragrance, plus a masking chemical to “negate” the fragrance.
Where do you get fragrance-free products? Good resources are health food stores and online. Ideally, they should be preservative-free, too. (If you see “paraben” as an ingredient, that’s a preservative.)
If you think this is all terribly bohemian, think again. You’d never knowingly let your child walk into a room full of a poisonous gas. So why would you want your family to live in a house full of harmful fragrances that could slowly poison the body?
Here’s the really scary thing. Even if you purchased a whole-house filtration system, with a special filter to adsorb harmful gases and chemicals, it still wouldn’t get rid of all the volatile organic compounds that synthetic fragrances give off. Neither would ionizing air cleaners. You can’t wash the stuff completely out of your clothes, either.
So do what’s right. If your house smells funny, get to the root of the problem instead of masking it with an aerosol fragrance. Find out what’s rotting in the hamper, molding in the crawl space, or whatever. If you don’t feel sick, don’t wait until you have symptoms, to change your ways. Then it’ll be too late.