Just because a home smells clean doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
It’s hard to believe, but we willingly bring harmful toxic chemicals into our homes through simple purchases such as:
Perfumes and Colognes
These products, and many others, contain synthetic fragrances specifically designed to smell good, but they carry a hidden danger for your family’s health. Synthetic fragrances are combinations of various chemicals that produce a desired scent. These fragrances are in your products and seem harmless enough. But they can potentially cause serious health issues.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences noted that 95% of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include carcinogens and other known toxic chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions.
Another study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that synthetic fragrances were often shown to contain hormone disruptors linked to abnormal cell reproduction.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) researchers found that over 75% of products listing “fragrance” as an ingredient contained phthalates. Phthalates are substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. They are often used to help fragrances last longer and allow lotions to penetrate the skin. The problem with phthalates is that they are endocrine disruptors which have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation. They have also been linked to liver and breast cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Additionally, further studies have linked fetal exposure with autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders.
Research conducted by the (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 different name brand fragrance products. The scariest part of that study was that none of the chemicals were listed on the label.
According to the International Fragrance Association, there are over 3,000 ingredients that can be used to form a product’s scent. Despite the many studies showing the health risks associated with these synthetic fragrances, the FDA does not require fragrance and cosmetic makers to disclose what they are using to scent products or what the health risks associated with them are. Many companies state that their formulas are proprietary, a trade secret, and they don’t want other companies copying them. The FDA is not legally required to force companies to warn about allergens or other health risks in cosmetics like they do with food. Yet, the health risks are even more severe when it comes to synthetic fragrances.
So why do companies willingly use synthetic chemicals, under the guise of “fragrance”, when they know the dangerous implications of the ingredients they are using and selling to consumers? The answer is pretty simple. Synthetics are far cheaper to manufacture and distribute. Synthetic scents are extremely cheap to include in everything from shampoo to lotions and candles. Unfortunately, this means that by purchasing and using a product because you enjoy the scent, you are introducing unwanted toxicity with potentially devastating health risks to yourself and your family.
Finding Alternatives to Synthetic Scents
After a bout with severe skin irritations that multiple doctors and prescriptions couldn’t resolve, we cleaned house, literally. This meant removing anything we used that would be considered toxic or harmful to our bodies. The first thing to do is look for any product that has “fragrance” or “parfum” in the list of ingredients. This is the catch-all term used to hide a wide array of toxic chemicals that the FDA won’t regulate. Other ingredients that may show up in the product label that you want to avoid are DEP, DBP, DEHP, or phthalate. Just because a product says it’s “fragrance-free” doesn’t mean it is safe to use. Some manufacturers still use other chemicals to mask the smell, but the chemicals used don’t fall under the 3,000 plus chemicals that fall under the term “fragrance”.
Dryer Sheets: Dryer sheets are one of the worst things we can use in our homes. Most dryer sheets contain chemicals that are linked to hormone disruption, asthma, and irritating skin conditions. Instead of using these toxic products, use wool dryer balls instead. They actually help reduce drying time and you can add a few drops of essential oils (lavender and peppermint are two popular oils to use) to them to provide the fragrance you want.
Laundry Detergent: On average, laundry detergents emit 17 unlisted toxins that can cause problems such as skin irritations, asthma, and neurological damage. Switch out the old detergent for one that’s 100% non-toxic and biodegradable. Avoid anything with phosphates, bleach, dyes, fragrances, brighteners, and other masking agents. Look for plant based products or make your own using unscented castile soap.
Air Fresheners and Plug-Ins: Air fresheners for your home contain more than 20 volatile organic compounds with nearly 35% being classified as toxic under federal laws. Many products that refer to themselves as “organic” emit hazardous chemicals and known carcinogens. We all love a clean, fresh smelling home, but not at the expense of our health. Essential oil diffusers are the perfect way to create a natural and healthy scent for your office, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, wherever. Essential oils that are 100% pure and therapeutic grade provide an emotional benefit in addition to creating a wonderful scent in your home. Take a diffuser with you when you travel and use it in hotel rooms. Get rid of any unpleasant odors and create your own personal mood for your stay.
Scented Candles: Most scented candles are made with paraffin wax, which is petroleum based. These types of candles, while smelling pleasant to some, produce harmful pollutants and can emit chemicals such as benzene and toluene, known carcinogens. For some, the scents in these candles can trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions. The good news is that there are many options available for you use candles that are natural and chemical free. We’ve replaced all of our candles with essential oil diffusers.
Other items to add to the replacement checklist are lotions, soaps, baby wipes, and shampoos. Check for fragrances, scents, and chemicals that you don’t want being absorbed into your skin. Choose a natural, fragrance-free alternative instead.
Homemade cleaning products are easy to make and are more effective at providing a clean and safe home. Many store-bought products contain the same synthetic scents we’ve been discussing. Many also contain harmful chemicals that can impact our health.
To find out more ways to make your home healthy and free from harmful toxins, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.