From perfumes to deodorants to creams to lipstick, a lot of things we apply to our skin are scented. Is it coming with a cost to our health?
Scents don't come out of thin air. There are, actually, about 4,000 chemicals used to scent products, but they are never listed on any label.
“No state, federal or global authority is regulating the safety of fragrance chemicals,” says Janet Nudelman, policy director for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “No state, federal or global authority even knows which fragrance chemicals appear in which products.”
According to a 2018 BCPP study, three-quarters of the toxic chemicals detected in a test of 140 products came from fragrance.
“When we took a harder look at beauty and personal care products we found that many chemicals of concern were hiding under the word ‘fragrance’,” said Nudelman.
At present, more than 1,200 fragrance chemicals have been flagged as a potential chemical of concern. Among those chemicals, there are seven carcinogens, and 15 chemicals prohibited from use in cosmetics in the EU.
According to proponents of the fragrance industry, "The exposure to any individual fragrance ingredient in a product is extremely low – well below 1%,” a spokesperson for the Fragrance Creators Association, the industry’s main trade organization in North America, said. “Fragrance ingredients are not hazardous based on usage.”
What can you do?
Avoiding fragrances is, basically, a titanic task, if not one quite impossible. Even unscented products could have some fragrance to mask the smell of other chemicals. Lawmakers in the States are trying to pass a bill that will force manufacturers to report any hazardous chemicals. Maybe other countries will follow.
In the meantime, experts encourage consumers to buy unscented products to decrease the risk.