Spritzing on perfume or cologne is a daily ritual for many, not to mention that the vast majority of personal care products – shampoo, lotion, deodorant – contain fragrances of their own.
There’s a dirty little secret the fragrance industry would rather you not know about, however, which is the extreme toxicity of many of these products. Hidden behind their pleasant scents are typically chemicals linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and even cancer.
Many perfumes sold at department stores, big-box retailers, and virtually everywhere else can aptly be described as poison – and this means that you could very well be sacrificing your health by wearing them.
Use caution when using any synthetic perfume or cologne, or any other synthetically fragranced personal care product, as they’re almost always loaded with synthetic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies, and more.
And although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has direct authority to regulate harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, it doesn’t exercise it… The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains: “When you see ‘fragrance’ on a personal care product’s label, read it as ‘hidden chemicals.’ A major loophole in FDA’s federal law lets manufacturers of products like shampoo, lotion, and body wash include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name ‘fragrance’ without actually listing the chemical.
Companies that manufacture personal care products are required by law to list the ingredients they use, but fragrances and trade-secret formulas are exempt.” What does this mean for a health-conscious person like yourself? When you purchase a fragrance, it could contain any number of the 3,100 or so stock chemical ingredients used by the fragrance industry.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of over 100 groups seeking transparency about chemicals in cosmetics, commissioned independent laboratory tests that revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 leading fragrances. The top offenders?: American Eagle 77 topped the list with 24, followed by Chanel Coco with 18 and Britney Spears Curious.
Even high-end perfumes are made with cocktails of dangerous and untested chemicals that may produce problems from allergies to hormone disruption, a study by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has found.
The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 explicitly exempts manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products from having to disclose any of the ingredients used to give fragrance to their products, as long as “fragrance” is listed in on the label. This lack disclosure becomes particularly dangerous when combined with a large-scale lack of data on the safety of these compounds; neither the FDA nor any publicly accountable organization has ever tested the majority of fragrance compounds for safety as ingredients in personal care products.
Upon request from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group sent 17 brand-name perfumes to be tested by the independent laboratory Analytical Sciences. Thirteen of the perfumes had been purchased in the United States, and four had been purchased in Canada.
Researchers uncovered 40 different chemicals in the perfume samples, in addition to the 51 listed on product labels. Of the 40 ingredients found, only two were listed on the label of every product containing them; the other 38 were unlisted on at least one of the 17 labels.
Each product contained roughly equal numbers of listed and unlisted chemicals, averaging 14 secret chemicals per product. Products including more than the average number included Britney Spears Curious (17), Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio (17), Chanel Coco (18) and American Eagle Seventy Seven (24).
The average perfume contained 10 known allergens that can trigger reactions from asthma to headaches to contact dermatitis. Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio contained the most known allergens, at 19.
Even more seriously, researchers uncovered 10 chemicals known to disrupt the hormonal (endocrine) system, with each perfume containing an average of four. The perfumes Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver and Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow all contained seven different endocrine disruptors — six estrogen mimics and a thyroid disruptor.
Among the endocrine disrupting chemicals were sun-blocking chemicals, the synthetic musks Galaxolide and Tonalide and diethyl phthalate (DEP). Galaxolide and Tonalide, which have been shown to accumulate in human and animal bodies, were found in more than eight of the products. DEP was found in 12 products in concentrations from 30 to 30,000 parts per million, the latter in Eternity for Women. It has been linked to reproductive defects in male infants, sperm damage in men and, more recently, hyperactivity in children.
Other perfume ingredients are known to react with indoor air to form formaldehyde, ultrafine particles and other pollutants. These dangerous fragrance chemicals are also found in air fresheners, shampoos, lotions, bath products, and dishwashing and laundry detergents.
Yet because the FDA has no authority to force fragrance manufacturers to test their products for safety, vast numbers of such chemicals remain unknown quantities. Only 19 of the 91 ingredients in the study have ever been tested for safety by the industry-funded Cosmetic Industry Review, and only 27 have ever been tested by either the International Fragrance Association or the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. Of the unlabeled ingredients found, only 34 percent have had safety assessments published.
While industry sources may claim that more ingredients than these have been tested, many have only been tested in non-cosmetic contexts, for example as food additives. And even evaluated chemicals remain untested in combination with the many other chemicals thrown in to cosmetics and other products to produce the vague legal category of “fragrance.”
With no requirement for either safety testing or labeling, there is simply no way for consumers to know what lies behind that term.
Sources for this story include: http://www.ewg.org/notsosexy.