Health Risks of Synthetic Fragrance

Aging diminishes our sense of smell and many older adults may take a slightly heavy hand with their use of fragrance but what many don’t realize is the hidden health risks associated with synthetic fragrance.  Unregulated by the FDA , “fragrance” ingredients can include a wide array of chemicals including toxins such as phthalates, benzene derivatives and aldehydes that can result in allergies, nervous-system disorders and some cancers.

It might be tempting for caregivers to help “freshen” the air in a stuffy seniors’ center or private home with a gift of a scented candle or plug-in scent diffuser but many of these products contain artificial fragrance that has been linked with liver and breast cancer, diabetes as well as obesity.

Natural fragrances don’t last as long as artificial scents and as a result manufacturers have turned to more than 3,000 fragrance chemicals to create signature fragrances in everything from perfume and cologne to shampoos, cleaning products, laundry detergent, candles and even baby wipes.

With so much exposure, more people are developing fragrance allergies or scent sensitivities.  If you have ever got a headache or felt sick when exposed to heavy fragrance in a store or on a person, if you start sneezing or wheezing around strong scents or if you break out in a rash from particular soaps or detergents, you might be sensitive to synthetic fragrance.

Check ingredient lists carefully for “fragrance” which is a catch-all term for any number of chemical scents, often added to products to mask chemical odors.  Look instead for essential oils to add a pleasant scent to household products and personal care items.

Many countries including Canada, EU, South Korea, Japan and China have banned phthalates but the United States is very slow to ban chemicals due to its requirement for a high level of proof of harm.

To learn more about toxic ingredients in artificial fragrance, visit the Environmental Working Group website at: .