Part One, Personal Pollution and Hurting Others
I’m a writer and artist who happens to be chemically sensitive. How I experience the world is prioritized by my need to avoid scent. Many fragrance ingredients are airborne toxins and not just a momentary inconvenience to be endured. Fragrance exposures cause sick days, sometimes only for a few hours, but frequently as part of a domino effect, throw off my body’s ecosystem making me sick for weeks. Products many people think aren’t harmful are. Scent wearers unknowingly cause grief and harm to others—just by using these scented products.
Wellness begins with awareness.
We can be responsible for our personal pollution--this is a big topic. One piece of it is fragrance layering. Think about how dryer vents spew strong laundry product odors. Most consumers leave a trail of scent like the dryer vent. A typical user is layered in scents before they apply their perfume or cologne. I go completely without fragrance, of course, but for someone who enjoys perfume, their scent of choice is being undermined by conflicting layers of other fragranced products. They are wearing the equivalent of perfume barf. (Yes, that word was uncomfortable to write.)
Another misunderstood scent issue is organic essential oils. They, too, are a cause of injury. Just because something comes from nature or is organic in the case of aromatic distillates, this is still concentrated scent and harmful to many.
Like others with allergies, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) I find being out in the world challenging. Whole Foods Markets, which offered a safe shopping haven for me, has jumped on the quick-buck fragrance wagon by running humidifiers with essential oils in their stores. As helpful as some of the employees in these stores can be when I contacted one store manager and let her know fragrances were problematic for those with asthma and allergies, she replied but “they’re essential oils.” In this eyebrow-raiser of a reply, she implied the oils couldn’t cause health problems because they were natural (not synthetic). Her response indicated a lack of understanding.
Selling and "how selling functions" has been a thread through my life. My full-time jobs were as a model, then an actress. Those worlds prioritize selling a product or person’s brand, inspiring a lifestyle choice over repercussions of ingredients. When I worked in commercials biting into food glistening with glycerin, we didn’t swallow it. We spit what they were selling into a bucket. It’s the advertiser’s job to sell products. When it comes to scent, we’re sold a stinky deal. Many current scented products have time-release properties to keep consumers stinking longer.
Since I’m a writer, one thing I can do is get the word out that fragrance is more damaging than people think.
You can help, too, by spreading the word and try doing a personal pollution evaluation to see what you discover. Now that you’re informed, it’s your choice whether you’d like to be part of the solution or part of the problem.
For more reading:
Here are my posts on fragrance-free living.
Here Debra Lynn Dadd writes about fragrance ingredients.