Healthy Beginnings

Fragrances… They Smell So Good!

Yes, they certainly do smell good. So many products used today contain fragrances. Not only do perfumes and colognes contain fragrances, personal care products, cosmetics and household cleaning products also contain a wide range of fragrances.

We want our bodies, clothes, homes and even our cars to smell good. And there are so many choices on how to make things smell. Do you prefer fruit, flowers, spices or the great outdoors? There are products available for personal care and household cleaning that contain whichever one or ones you desire.

Have you ever thought about what fragrances are made of? Many of the compounds in fragrances are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4000 separate ingredients. Most, or all, of them are synthetic. There have been no FDA or industry toxicity studies and safety assessment of the majority of these ingredients. Because of trade secrets there is no requirement that all ingredients be listed on the label and many are not listed.

Ingredients from natural sources are not as easily obtained and are more costly than compounds that are synthetically created to match the desired fragrance.

95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include toxins and sensitizers capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.

Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting and allergic skin irritation. These are only those reported to the FDA; it is unknown how many are unreported.

A 1968-1972 FDA analysis of 138 compounds used in cosmetics identified five that most frequently involved adverse reactions. They are alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, limonene and linalool and are among the 20 most commonly used compounds in the 31 fragrance products tested by the EPA in 1991.

Headaches cost $50 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses and 157 million lost work days in 1991. That was 16 years ago. Do we think this situation has improved since then?

No one can say with certainty that fragrances are the main cause of headaches or any other conditions. There is scientific evidence that some common ingredients can and do adversely affect different body systems and functions. We see the increase in serious medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Sinusitis, and Asthma over the past few decades. Increased use of fragrances and other synthetics has also occurred during this time. Could there be a connection?

Sure, we all like to smell good and be in a good smelling environment. It can be done without the health risks so many fragrances are capable of. Products with fragrances containing natural compounds will list these on the label.

Personal care and household cleaning products that contain truly natural, chemical free ingredients will give you the results you want. OK, it won’t smell like fruit or flowers, but the fragrance isn’t the reason you use the product in the first place. There are many unavoidable exposures in our daily lives to toxins and chemicals. Isn’t it a good idea to avoid those we can avoid and lessen the chances of further health problems?


Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment; FRAGRANCE CHEMICALS AS TOXIC SUBSTANCES: see references list at end. 1994.

2) Neurotoxins: At home and the Workplace, Report by the Committee on Science & Technology US House of Representatives, Sept 16, 1986

3) Focus on Fragrance and Health by Louise Kosta, The Human Ecologist, Fall 1992.

For more information, please contact Steve & Rita of Nature Rich. (775) 331-6490 or visit