What you can do about toxic fragrances

Toxic Fragrances versus Organics and Aromatherapy

While some devotees of cologne and perfume like their fragrances long-lasting, they may be unaware that it is phthalates – causing the disagreeable odor at the nail shop – that act as a perfume fixative, retaining the smell for 24 hours and sometimes much longer, even after clothing has been laundered in a washing machine or professionally cleaned. In fact, these same chemicals permeate the fragrance in laundry detergent, which is why it doesn’t wash away in the rinse cycle. If you find that you cannot seem to wash off fragrance from laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoos, cologne, pump soap, dishwashing liquid, or cleaning products, you might want to change brands because you could be compromising your health. The chemicals in fabric softener sheets like Bounce are left embedded in clothing. They shorten the life of sheets and clothes, and the substance rubs off on your skin, potentially causing skin irritation and respiratory problems. Continue Reading »

Signs of Progress in Limiting Environmental Contamination, Part 3

Air “Fresheners Last month Jane Kay reported on a coalition of environmental groups petitioning the federal government to “crack down on air fresheners, products that scientific studies show can aggravate asthma and pose other health risks” (SFChron, 9/20/07).

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes, and the National Center for Healthy Housing filed a petition with the EPA and the Consumer Product Agency to request better regulation of the industry, which is expected to garner $1.72 billion in sales this year. Excerpts from the petition:

Scented sprays, gels and plug-in fresheners offer no public health benefits yet contain harmful chemicals linked to breathing difficulties, developmental problems in babies and cancer in laboratory animals.

In houses, offices and restrooms, Americans suffer significant exposure to a veritable cocktail of dangerous and potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. In cases of mold and damp indoor environments, air fresheners may hide an indicator of potentially serious health threats to the respiratory system.

Proposed truth-in-advertising labeling would require listing all ingredients in air fresheners. The government should ban ingredients that would cause allergies or appear on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm.

The air fresheners can contain a number of harmful chemicals including benzene, formaldehyde, and phthalates.

Lab animal studies show that some phthalates interfere with hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production and cause malformation of sex organs. Some studies of humans have shown a link between exposure and adverse changes in the genitals of baby boys.


The Natural Resource Defense Council sent 14 air fresheners to be tested for phthalates in an independent lab. The tests found that 12 products, including those marked “all natural,” contained phthalates. Continue Reading »

Limiting Environmental Contamination, Part 2

Chemical Hazards from Multiple Sources

The news of a statewide ban on phthalates follows several other alarms sounded recently about the presence of chemical dangers to health to which the public and wildlife are commonly exposed, in everyday consumer products and even new forms of advertising.

Wetlands advocates and other environmental groups have issued warnings and public safety requests to Bay Area residents to forgo phthalate- and bisphenol-containing plastics, cosmetics, and cleansers because the chemicals in these products find their way into runoff that kills or harms wildlife in the Bay. As for human health, phthalates – linked to cancer, birth defects, and neurological damage – were found in 75% of urine samples tested in a 2003 study on safety (http://www.environcorp.com/img/media/Phthalates.pdf).

Meanwhile, perfluorinated compounds – used in Scotchgard, Gortex, and nonstick surfaces like Teflon, are showing up in marine life literally throughout the world – the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Atlantic, the Ganges in India, the Midway Atoll in the Pacific, Korea, Canada and the US, and even as far away as Antarctica . These chemicals have caused hormone disruption, immune compromise, and devastating neurological effects. They have been linked to cancer in whales and dolphins, a disease previously unheard of in cetaceans (http://assets.panda.org/downloads/causesforconcern.pdf).


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