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Michelle Warner

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Flagrant Fragrances

Posted on January 31st, 2011

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.

This healthy living thing can be overwhelming, can’t it? There are so many categories of life to address: diet, cleaning products, cosmetics, exercise, air…the list goes on and on. I have been trying not to tackle every area at once but instead focus on one category and then when I feel ready, address another category. As I’ve shared in some past posts, God has been teaching me about not making my healthy changes my savior but instead trust Him with my health.

One of the categories I’ve been wanting to research is the topic of fragrances. In my reading on healthy living, the health implications of synthetic fragrances kept showing up. What I didn’t realize was how complex this topic is. Because of its multi layers, I decided to first explain the reason we need to keep a watchful eye on buying products with synthetic fragrances. And then next week, I will share how we can replace specific products containing synthetic fragrances like candles and perfumes with natural fragrances.

As I began researching, I first wanted to understand the word “synthetic.” It is a term I often read but don’t really understand. According to the dictionary, “synthetic” means: “noting or pertaining to compounds formed through a chemical process by human agency, as opposed to those of natural origin.” Since I am trying to eliminate my exposure to toxic chemicals, this definition wasn’t exactly comforting.

I was quite surprised to find out how many products contain synthetic fragrances. Although this is not a complete list, synthetic fragrances are found in laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dish soap, disinfectants, soaps, shampoos, hair products, deodorants, cosmetics, sunscreen lotions, aftershaves, perfumes, body sprays, air fresheners, candles, and lip balms. Basically every product we use every day.

Since synthetic fragrances are found in many products I use daily, I was quite curious to understand exactly what they are. Surprisingly, though many chemicals make up a fragrance, companies are not required to list the ingredients on the packaging. This means over twenty chemicals can be comprised in the simple word, “fragrance.” The senior vice president for research for The Environmental Working Group, Jane Houlihan, stated on WebMd’s website that “The fragrance mixture itself can be comprised of dozens, even hundreds, of individual chemicals, and those don’t have to be listed on the label.”  An article in Time confirmed similar information about ingredients in fragrances, “A study released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council evaluated 14 air fresheners off the shelf of a local Walgreens and found that 12 contained variable amounts of substances called phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used to dissolve and carry fragrances, soften plastics and also as sealants and adhesives.” Considering I learned about the health risks of phthalates when I researched nail polish for an earlier Monday Morsel, I was curious to know what health risks were linked to products containing the word “fragrance.”

According to many sources that I read, chemicals in synthetic fragrances are linked to hormone disruptions, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions. Woah. I know these health risks seem a bit extreme, but it still caused me to consider what products I was using to wash my face and clean my clothes. Did I want a plethora of chemicals seeping into my skin under the nine letter word f-r-a-g-r-a-n-c-e?

Of course, this does not mean that using products that contain synthetic fragrances will automatically put you at risk for cancer. However, products potentially linked to increased health risks are ones that I am trying to eliminate from my home in order to lead a healthier life.

Next week I will share practical tips on of how to reduce your exposure to synthetic fragrances and replace them with more natural options. I would love to hear if you have found any naturally fragrant options that you enjoy. Have a fabulous week!

P.S. If you don’t hear from me next week, it may be because we truly did receive the 20+ inches of snow that they are predicting for Chicago and it may take me a while to shovel out of the snow drift!

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