Friday, May 18, 2012

Fragrance Facts

On May 22, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania will celebrate “Fragrance Free Day,” following the lead of cities like Las Vegas who have held similar events in the past.  Why go to the trouble? Why is the issue important? Just what is "fragrance" anyway?

God has filled this world with a variety of pleasant-smelling flowers, foods, and other natural delights.  Today, however, the word "fragrance" generally refers to synthetic concoctions found in consumer products. An article entitled Scents and Sensitivity, originally published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, notes that an estimated 3,000 chemicals or more are used in the manufacture of fragrances,  A single fragrance may contain several hundred of these.

 A compilation of fragrance facts titled Making Sense of Scents notes the following:

  • The National Academy of Sciences reports that 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are derived from petroleum.

  • Many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, central nervous system disorders, allergic reactions, and birth defects.

  • A large percentage (84%) of fragrance chemicals have been tested only minimally for human toxicity, or have never been tested at all. 

  • Some of the chemicals found in fragrances have been designated as hazardous waste.

  • The fragrance industry isn't regulated by any agency.

Synthetic fragrances saturate our culture for many reasons.  One is that olfactory fatigue (the inability to detect an odor after prolonged exposure to it) leads people to continually increase the amount of fragrance they use. Fragranced products are also the rule rather than the exception because manufacturers add synthetic perfumes to cover the smell of other chemicals in the formulations.

It's unfortunate that being fragrance-free in our culture takes some intentionality, but it's worth the effort.  Every personal fragrance-free day contributes to better health for everyone.  Every purchase of a fragrance-free product also sends a message to producers and distributors.  Let's send the message.  Let's take this seriously.

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