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The Pros And Cons Of Fragrances

A pleasing scent can evoke memories, influence our moods and even boost productivity in the workplace.  The olfactory nerve is so closely associated with memory and feeling that it is often called the “emotional brain.” Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged the ability to smell is also impaired.

Perhaps that explains our strong attachment to scent. It also explains why manufacturers compete with each other to develop personal care products that offer a pleasant fragrance. Unfortunately, the same sweet smells that soothe your senses may be damaging your health and the environment.

Research has shown that 90% of the chemicals used in popular synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals, including benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other toxins and sensitizers. These chemicals can cause anaphylactic shock, trigger a migraine, set off an allergy attack and increase your risk for serious health conditions, including cancer.

Many synthetic fragrances include phthalates, a class of chemicals linked to hormone disruption that can cause birth defects, infertility and sperm damage.  Even products that are labeled “fragrance free” may not be safe because they often contain a “masking” scent that prevents the brain from perceiving odor.

To exacerbate the problem, fragrances are considered “trade secrets” so manufacturers are not automatically required to list them on labels as ingredients. Although most countries have a long way to go to ensure product safety the European Union has taken a leading role and restricts the use of many fragrance ingredients. The EU also requires warning labels on products if they contain any of 23 allergens commonly used in fragrances.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family from these dangerous chemicals? Knowledge is power and there are many watchdog groups that have emerged to help consumers make informed decisions. Skin Deep cosmetics (www.skindeepcosmetics.com)  and Chemical Safe Skincare    (www.chemicalsafeskincare.com) offer helpful information on their websites, including lists of specific brands to avoid.

Spraying perfumeBecause the dangers of synthetic fragrances have become so well-known, millions of health-conscious consumers have made the switch to natural, organic fragrances. Natural fragrances have safely been used for centuries. The ancient Egyptians were making perfumes from natural plant extracts for thousands of years before artificial fragrances were invented.

Natural fragrances contain botanical ingredients from nature such as essential oils or natural plant extracts. There are fragrances to suit every taste ranging from simple, single-note florals to complex blends of flowers, woods and resins. While synthetic fragrances only mask and cover up your natural scent, organic perfumes enhance your body’s natural chemistry.

In addition to their use in cosmetics, synthetic fragrances are also found in hundreds of other consumer products, including laundry detergents and cleaning fluids. People all over the world use mainstream cleaning brands to keep their homes and offices clean, fragrant and germ-free. Unfortunately, many of these products are manufactured with toxins that are more unsavory than the dirt and germs they are designed to eliminate.  This is particularly troublesome for people who live or work in buildings where there are no open windows to help diffuse the harmful effects of chemicals. Check for safer alternatives at www.lesstoxicguide.ca.

The best way to avoid toxic chemicals is to become “label-smart.” Always read the ingredients and don’t assume a product is “natural” just because it says that on the packaging. If you aren’t sure, check one of the “watchdog” websites to determine which products to buy.

Once you begin using naturally-scented products you will notice a major difference in the quality and richness of the fragrances. Trust your nose to Mother Nature!