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Fragrances and Perfumes

Bottles with ingredients for the perfume, isolated on white

They are everywhere … in soap, lotions, candles, deodorants, air fresheners, car “pine trees” or “new car smell” treatments, hair spray, house spray, carpet spray, laundry detergent, car wax, white-board markers, paints, crayons, diapers, garbage bags, even some dolls and other baby toys.  If you have a sensitive toddler in day-care, give the school and the toy box the “sniff test”  yourself.

Some fragrances are delightful, flowery, or otherwise pleasant; some are much less so, such as the aroma of cleaning supplies, floor waxes, or plastic tablecloths and shower curtains.  You may want to open shower curtains and plastic table cloths that have a strong smell, and air them outdoors until the smell is gone.  Some furniture (especially if made of pressboard) also has a strong odor which may include formaldehyde used in processing; new carpets or carpet padding degas chemicals that can cause headache and nausea.  Indoor air experts recommend removing all plants and animals, opening all windows, and turning the heat way up to expedite gas-out.  In other cases, it may be enough to do your renovating during pleasant weather and keep the house open until the smell is gone.  Even new clothing is not exempt;  fabric is often treated with formaldehyde and other “finishing” chemicals, so wash your clothes before wearing for the first time.  And if you must dry-clean, try to find a service that uses natural or environmentally-friendly chemicals, and air out the clothes until any residual smell evaporates if necessary.

One last word … when you want your clothes, bedding, or pillows to smell sunshine-fresh, try putting them in the SUNSHINE for a while.  You will be amazed.

Author Index
  1. Anderson 1998
  2. Api 1999
  3. Cammer 1980
  4. Christian 1999
  5. deGroot 1988
  6. Ford 1990
  7. Gendler 1987
  8. Giovinazzo 1980
  9. Jansson 2001
  10. Kumar 1995
  11. Lake 1999
  12. Nair 2001
  13. Schafer 2001
  14. Spencer 1979
  15. Spencer 1984
Nair 2001: 2 Fragrances safe to use ... but don't inhale

Final report on the safety assessment of Benzyl Alcohol, Benzoic Acid, and Sodium Benzoate. Nair B. International Journal of Toxicology 2001;20 Suppl 3:23-50

Benzyl Alcohol is an aromatic alcohol used in a wide variety of cosmetic formulations as a fragrance component, preservative, solvent, and viscosity-decreasing agent. Benzoic Acid is an aromatic acid used in a wide variety of cosmetics as a pH adjuster and preservative. Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of Benzoic Acid used as a preservative, also in a wide range of cosmetic product types. . .  Some differences between control and Benzyl Alcohol-treated populations were noted in one reproductive toxicity study using mice, but these were limited to lower maternal body weights and decreased mean litter weights. . . . Benzoic Acid was associated with an increased number of resorptions and malformations in hamsters, but . . . negative in two rat studies. Genotoxicity (cancer-causing damage to DNA) tests for these ingredients were mostly negative, but there were some assays that were positive. … Clinical data indicated that these ingredients can produce nonimmunologic contact urticaria . . . In one study, 5% Benzyl Alcohol elicited a reaction, and in another study, 2% Benzoic Acid did likewise. . . .  it was concluded that these ingredients could be used safely at concentrations up to 5%, . . . .Because of the wide variety of product types in which these ingredients may be used, it is likely that inhalation may be a route of exposure. The available safety tests are not considered sufficient to support the safety of these ingredients in formulations where inhalation is a route of exposure. . . .Note: These are fragrances.  You small them. But in 2001 it was not known if it was safe for you to inhale them.  Nevertheless, companies can keep putting them in the products you buy.  Just don’t inhale (??)

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Jansson 2001: Fragrance and allergy


Strategy to decrease the risk of adverse effects of fragrance ingredients in cosmetic products. Jansson T, Loden M. American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 2001 Sep;12(3):166-9

In spite of extensive self-regulation of the fragrance industry, fragrance ingredients are still major causes of allergic contact dermatitis. . . . Herein, we propose a simple strategy to decrease the risk of adverse effects of fragrance ingredients in cosmetic products. . . . (1) limit the concentration of fragrance compound in the products, (2) follow legislation and guidelines, (3) limit the concentration of a number of well-known sensitizing fragrance chemicals, and (4) limit the concentration of essential oils and materials with unknown composition. . . .Note: They say less is better. We believe that none is best.




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